Adam and Hannie van Bergeijk will see their dream come true this Saturday, September 15, with the official opening of Mountainoak Cheese in New Hamburg, Ontario. For them, it’s the culmination of many years of hard work and planning. For the cheese enthusiasts, it could well be the beginning of a love affair with their superb Farmstead Gouda cheeses.
Adam and Hannie’s passion for making Gouda cheese started more than 30 years ago. In 1976, they took over the dairy farm run by Adam’s parents near the town of Spijkkernisse in their native Holland. From the beginning, they had an interest in making artisan cheese. The southwest area of Holland they lived in has a long and illustrious history of cheesemaking, so it was not hard to find willing teachers. In 1981, they both attended the renowned cheesemaker school in nearby Gouda, a center of cheesemaking expertise for more than 300 years. Since that time, Adam has passed on his knowledge to others as well, training students from countries throughout Europe in the art of making high quality Gouda cheeses.
In Holland, the van Bergeijks set up a small cheese plant right on their dairy farm. Their prize-winning cheeses were very popular with local consumers, and by the 1990s they were selling more than half the milk from their 60 cows as Farmstead Gouda direct to the public. But with two sons and a daughter, all interested in farming, there was little opportunity to grow as dairy farmers in the Netherlands.
In search of a brighter future for their children, Adam and Hannie sold the dairy and emigrated to Canada in 1996. They purchased land in Wilmot Township just east of the village of Haysville and built a modern freestall barn to provide comfortable housing for their new dairy herd. Since on-farm artisan cheese making was virtually unknown in Ontario, the van Bergeijks planned to focus on dairy farming only. Nevertheless, some of their original cheesemaking equipment found its way into the container destined for their new homeland, and it wasn’t long before they were making cheese for their own consumption.
Now that married sons Arjo and his wife Baukje on the home farm and John and his wife Angela on a second dairy nearby have taken over primary responsibility for the dairy operation, Adam and Hannie’s passion to make cheese is blooming once more. With the encouragement of family, friends and neighbours, they have embarked on a new cheesemaking adventure.
Mountainoak Cheese is a state-of-the-art processing plant that allows the van Bergeijks to continue the tradition of great tasting high quality Gouda-style cheeses made with high quality fresh milk from their own dairy cows. Three days a week, right after the morning milking is completed, fresh milk from their herd of purebred Holsteins is pumped directly over to the cheese plant to begin the process. Using their 30 years experience and traditional Dutch recipes, the van Bergeijks have a reputation for making superb-quality Farmstead Gouda cheese. They also offer very interesting variations on spiced Gouda, using traditional cumin as well as black pepper, mustard seed, nettles and even gourmet black truffles.
To those unfamiliar with the Dutch language, “Mountainoak” may seem like an odd name for a local cheese produced in Waterloo County. There is no particular abundance of oaks on the farm, and certainly there are no mountains anywhere nearby either. A literal translation from Dutch to English of the family name “van Bergeijk”, would be “from the mountain oak.” Coming to a new land and eager to embrace the English language, they chose “Mountainoak Farms” as the name of their dairy. When their dream to make cheese in Canada became a reality, it just made sense that fresh Mountainoak milk should be made into high quality, all-natural, Mountainoak cheese.
The grand-opening celebration on September 15 will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at the farm, 4 kilometres south of Baden, just west of Wilmot Centre Road. The address is 3165 Huron Road, New Hamburg. The day will feature cheese sampling, self-guided tours of the processing plant, and information on how cheese is made. There is an official opening ceremony at 11:00 a.m., and a complimentary lunch including ice cream at noon. While all refreshments are complimentary, in light of the recent hurricane damage in Haiti, there will be opportunity to make a freewill donation to “Mission to Haiti Canada” at the event.
For more information and directions to the farm, visit the website at www.mountainoakcheese.ca.
—Jack Rodenburg of Dairy Logix