The Goulds is already well known for its dairy and other farms, now Adam Blanchard is putting it on the map as a place where cheese is made.
The founder and owner of Five Brothers Artisan Cheese is currently running the only artisan cheese company in Newfoundland. Blanchard outlined his company’s progress to those attending the Celtic Community Business Development Corporation’s annual general meeting Tuesday night in Ferryland. He told the crowd about the stages of beginning his company, where it is now, and where he wants to head in the future thanks to the support and funding from the CBDC.
Blanchard’s journey towards entrepreneurship began after he finished culinary school in PEI and moved back to Newfoundland.
“I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go,” he admitted. “It was one of those transition moments where you’re looking for something to do but not sure what it is.”
He took a job at a restaurant downtown and began making cheese around the house for fun with friends and family. “I had no real intention of using it for anything,” he allowed. “As I started making it and started getting around and talking to people, I realized that no one else in Newfoundland was making artisanal cheese. That sort of struck me as odd because we live on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic, we have food security issues, the boats may shut down for a few days in the winter and there’s no food coming to the island. There’s a surplus of milk, also. These two things I couldn’t grasp or understand, so I decided to start the business and name it after myself and my four younger brothers.”
Blanchard began testing the public’s appetite for his product at the farmer’s market in St. John’s. “It was probably the best decision I ever made, honestly,” he said. “The response was overwhelming.”
Blanchard said he and his brothers moved quickly through their first batch of inventory, and he decided to run with the idea. “It’s so wonderful what has happened, to see this idea grow from a little commercial kitchen in St. John’s to now in the Goulds where, a couple of years ago, we expanded and grew and increased our production size so we could meet the demand that I witnessed that was out there for local artisan cheese.”
You may know Blanchard’s cheese from the poutine challenge that 18 local restaurants in the St. John’s participated in this summer, allowing one dollar from every poutine served to go back to support the Autism Society, which saw $1,400 raised in the month of June.
Blanchard said it’s has been a major learning curve since he started the business, dealing with new challenges everyday and trying to determine what comes next. “I’ve been so fortunate too, with the support of you folks, and the community in general, to be able to travel and see things, bringing these ideas back,” he told the CBDC directors. “I think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, no, I know they have a strong entrepreneurial mentality. I see it at the farmer’s market with these people who go down there week after week selling their locally made produce or locally made goods, whatever it may be. It’s really inspiring, and I still go to the market every Saturday, it’s my favourite time of the week to go and mingle with these other entrepreneurs who are out there and just talk to people about cheese. It’s refreshing at the end of a long week, I’ll tell you that much.”
With the expansion into the Goulds, Blanchard said they finally have a nice sized facility where they are finally working out the kinks. Five Brothers is supplying a large variety of cheeses to different outlets, including grocery stores and restaurants, and anyone who is interested in using local cheese. “I think everybody should be,” Blanchard said. “It just benefits all the way down the line. We are taking a raw product from a farmer and turning it into a delicious cheese and then being able to sell it at a (local) restaurant; it’s a real farm-to-table analysis.”
Blanchard sent cheese to Parliament Hill on Tuesday, which was a special moment for the company. Blanchard worked an event with a chef from Parliament Hill at the Sheraton Hotel this past summer, and the chef was very interested in the cheese and followed up recently to have a large order shipped to the Parliament buildings. “It’s moments like that where I love what I do, I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Blanchard. “I met my fiancé through this, I have met some of the most amazing people, friends, who just continue to support and encourage and I wouldn’t be able to do it without them, and I wouldn’t want to really.”
Blanchard said it’s hard being the only one who’s laying a foundation for cheese manufacturing in Newfoundland. It means a learning curve with no one to look to for guidance.
“When I look at the long term, and I see the potential of Five Brothers Cheese, not only across Newfoundland like we are now, but eventually across Canada, I think the sky is the limit, it really is,” he added. “Again, we wouldn’t be able to do it without everybody in the community and folks like yourselves; it just wouldn’t be possible.”
What would Blanchard say if someone else decided to start up an artisan cheese company?
“I think that would be fantastic,” he exclaimed. “Because that means the industry is growing. No one is going to come in and make the exact same cheeses as you are, and it would be fun to have a friend on the west coast that you could go visit and learn a few things through. So I’d embrace that.”
Blanchard said the funding programs available to entrepreneurs are important, and he wouldn’t have been able to do half of what he has accomplished without the support of the CBDC. He urged people to buy local this holiday season, and to see if you can find the equivalent of an item that someone wants in a local handcrafted product.
“We need to continue to support the entrepreneurs who are here on the island, because if you don’t give them the opportunities and support, they’re going to go elsewhere, and they’re going to find it elsewhere,” he warned.
The next step for Five Brothers Artisan Cheese? “We’re not done. There’s still a lot of room and opportunity for Five Brothers to grow,” said Blanchard. “That’s a great thing and that’s why I got into cheese is because its so vast, there’s so much and its so different; you’ll never get bored with it. That’s what I found about some things when I was growing up, I’d just get bored of it too easily, but cheese, you’ll never get bored of it. You’ll use it for anything. You can eat it as a snack or you can stuff a chicken breast with it.”
Blanchard said Five Brothers is hoping to soon receive milk directly from a farm in the Goulds, which will allow the company’s volume of cheese to increase, its yields to increase, and the costs to decrease. “This is a win, win, win, you know, and this is what we’ve been working on for the past year,” Blanchard said. “We were hoping to have it up and going by now, but patience in life, and cheese making and business is what’s needed to persevere.”