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Triple Island taps into Dutch roots
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series detailing the growth of two Lumby/Cherryville cheese makers.
Cherryville’s Triple Island Cheese Farm has gone from a one-cow operation to a dairy of 30 healthy milkers in just eight years.
Run by the Tuijtels, a Dutch immigrant family, Triple Island has had to gradually expand to keep up with growing consumer demand for its range of tasty Goudas, made using a traditional whole-milk recipe.
“We want to grow eventually to about 45 to 50 cows,” said Kees Tuijtel, the cheese maker and youngest of two sons of business owners Johan and Helma. “Hopefully we can keep up with the demand.”
Triple Island is truly a family affair, and every member has a job. Wilbert, the oldest son, helps Johan with the day-to-day farm tasks such as feeding and milking the cows, as well as ongoing maintenance. Daughter Nadine, 14, is in charge of the calves, including naming them.
Johan and Helma attend farmers’ markets, including the Vernon indoor market, which runs Mondays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Schubert Centre (until April). Their products are also available at the Lumby Health Store, Super A Market and Choices Markets in Kelowna and Lower Mainland.
The Tuijtels, however, are leery of growing too big, too fast. The last thing they want is to compromise product quality, or push their cows for the sake of a better yield. Instead, they prefer to keep the operation small enough that the family can run it independently.
“We’re not always pushing for higher production, we’re going for flavour of the milk,” said Kees (pronounced case), 30, who attended agriculture school in Holland before learning the craft with a cheese maker there.
“We go for a little less, but have a better product in the end.”
Kees processes roughly 750 litres of milk a day, which yields about 75 kilograms of cheese. His Gouda is available in mild, medium, aged (if it stays on the shelf long enough) and smoked, plus an array of herb Goudas including dill and cumin.
Triple Island also produces Maasdammer, which is similar to the popular Swiss Emmental.
“We still use the old-fashioned recipe,” said Kees. “It’s been four generations that have been making Gouda and we still use that same recipe.
“What is crucial for good Gouda is raw milk. You can’t make a good Gouda with pasteurized milk. It’s not the same. We tried it when we started, but it just neutralizes the flavour quite a bit.
“With our cheese, when you cut into it, those wedges will keep for months in the fridge. The stuff from the store goes moldy real fast because there’s so much whey and moisture left in the cheese.”
Helma noted the water and milk used in their cheese production are continually monitored to ensure it contains no harmful bacteria. Federal regulations also require raw-milk cheese to be aged a minimum of 60 days before it can be sold, as the maturation process helps eliminate unwanted bacteria.
“There is no danger when you do it right and you do it by the rules,” she said. “It’s government inspected.”
Added Johan: “They’re (Canadian regulations) a little stiffer here than they are in Europe. They have higher standards, which is good in one way. Cleanliness is important when you’re dealing with food, but it almost goes to an extreme.”
The Truijtels immigrated to Canada 12 years ago from the southwest part of Holland, near Kinderdijk, famous for its windmills (Rotterdam is the nearest major city). They moved to the area to work for a dairy farmer.
“They cannot find people in Canada who like to milk cows and work 14 to 18 hours a day,” said Johan. “But they forget it’s a steady job. In the end, you make more money. You don’t have to travel; you live on the farm.”
Johan said the family’s main goal for immigrating to Canada was always to own land, something that would have been a challenge in the Netherlands.
“In Holland, I can work for my uncle but I can never get my own piece,” said Johan. “There’s no land left. We got squeezed out by cities and highways.”
Johan said by combining the dairy with the cheese production, it has resulted in a viable business that can support his entire family. Both Kees and Wilbert have built homes on the family acreage along Highway 6.
“You can go with less cows and make the same profit,” said Johan. “If you milk cows and make cheese you actually have two businesses. If you do the two together, the whole family has work and you can start on a smaller scale.”