Business

Milking a business for all it’s worth

Marianne Smith checks the PH balance of a batch of goats milk. The milk in the vat is enough to make about 10 wheels each weighing about 10 pounds, plus cheese curds. Bottom: Wheels of goat cheese are in the final stages of the ripening process. - Natasha Jones/Langley Times
Marianne Smith checks the PH balance of a batch of goats milk. The milk in the vat is enough to make about 10 wheels each weighing about 10 pounds, plus cheese curds. Bottom: Wheels of goat cheese are in the final stages of the ripening process.
— image credit: Natasha Jones/Langley Times

Milner Valley Cheese is a fledgling business that is booming in the bucolic setting of one of Langley’s oldest and prettiest communities.

Cheese made from the milk of goats is the mainstay of Milner Valley Cheese which is run by Glenn and Marianne Smith and their sons, Gregg and Brad.

It opened just before Christmas 2010, and since then Marianne, who is most often behind the counter, has noticed a surge in customers who are buying goat cheese because they, or someone they know, have an allergy or intolerance to products made with cow’s milk.

Cheese making is an art, and to perfect it she studied at the University of Guelph and universities in Washington and Idaho.

Marianne concedes that it was a trial and error start, and she’s still learning as she works her way through a 10-hour day.

In such peaceful surroundings, it’s not surprising that this is an ideal workplace.

Then there’s the obvious pleasure of seeing customers’ delight at finding Langley-produced goat cheeses, but seeing familiar faces return again and again is the highlight for Marianne.

To many, the appealing element of a farmstead and artisanal product is that the cheeses are made by hand on the farm from goats bred, raised and milked on the farm.

“We have total control of our animals and the milk they produce,” Marianne said, adding that the milk is pasteurized.

The Smith Farm keeps a herd of between 60 and 70 Saanen, Nubian and Alpine goats, the latter two known for the rich quality of their milk.

In order to maintain maximum health, the goats graze on unpolluted grass, and are also fed grain and hay. No artificial preservatives or additives are used in the production of the cheese.

Just how good is the product?

On the day she took The Times on a tour of the operation, Marianne learned that Milner Valley Cheese won top prize in the PNE’s fresh cheese category for its chevre.

And, she points out, the soft cheese is not the same as cream cheese. This delicious cheese can be used in recipes that call for sour cream, in a lasagna, on pizza, in a quiche, on bagels, crackers and sandwiches, paired with nuts or fresh pairs, peaches and nectarines, on sliced tomatoes garnished with herbs, then broiled, and tossed on cooked vegetables,

The farmstead store is in what used to be a woodshed, then converted to a garage for the attached old farm house where the Smiths live. It was built 101 years ago.

The shop carries Milner Jack, jalapeno, aged, peppercorn, cumin, chili, Colby (a popular mild sandwich cheese) cheese curds, chevre and feta. The curds are sold on Fridays only.

The freezer is loaded with lamb chops, lamb stew and leg of lamb ready for roasting, all from the animals raised by the Smiths, and a  small line of gifts, including soap made with goat milk.

Milner Valley Cheese is at 21479 Smith Crescent. The farm shop is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5:30 and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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