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The Petite-Nation region is overflowing with agri-food treasures. Whether turning onto a road in Saint-André-Avellin, Ripon or Chénéville or onto the main street in Montebello, it’s easy to fall in love with businesses offering these delicious local products.
Among the hundred or so producers within the territory, two of the great enthusiasts are Christian Girard and Maggie Paradis, the owners of the Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères. Located between Saint-Sixte and Ripon, this business is a hidden gem with products that find their way to thousands of tables each year, much to the delight of those with discerning tastes.
Destiny led the couple to discover this farm on Route 317. They literally ran out of gas in front of this piece of land that would, after retiring as soldiers, enable them to live their new-found passion as farmers to the fullest.
Let’s allow Maggie Paradis tell us in her own words the next chapter of the adventure that has been going on now for a quarter of a century.
“It was quite by chance that we came across this farm,” she recalls. “We bought it to set up home, but more importantly, to develop our real passion, which still burns within us to this today. After training in business start-up and sheep production, we decided to proceed with a flock of ewes and ewe lambs.
Who would have thought that simply running out of gas would lead to such an entrepreneurial adventure. Today, the 125 ewes and 25 ewe lambs produce between 25,000 and 30,000 litres of milk. In addition, they produce between 100 and 125 lambs for market that are sold directly to customers.
This flock is exclusively fed dry feed and whole grains during winter months, including flax. During the summer, the ewes go out every day to exercise and graze on fresh grass. This concern for quality is a constant concern of this entrepreneurial couple. This is a critical element, as the flock is the source of the great popularity of their products.
In 2008, following an increase in reported cases of listeriosis in Québec and Ontario, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) put the fine cheese industry on hold. This crisis affected not only the cheese industry, but all the companies selling the precious milk used to make the products.
“At the time, we had two excellent customers who bought all of our milk production,” recalls Ms. Paradis. “The situation was devastating and we had no choice but to adapt. We developed a new business plan and made the necessary financial arrangements to create our own cheese factory. Once again, we didn’t take the easiest path, but it was a sector that really fascinated us, given its creative side. So in 2009 we produced our first cheeses for the shelves.”
La Petite Folie, a cheese made from 100% sheep’s milk, is the product that made the company known throughout the Outaouais. Since its introduction, Fou Fou Feta, L’Apprenti sorcier, Le Jupon frivole, La coulée douce, La Petite démone, La Sorcière bien aimée, La chèvre fatale, La chèvre d’art, La fabuleuse, le Moment de folie, Ewe’s Fluffy, Ave Ceasar and the ewe’s milk yoghurt have been added to the shelves of the various retail stores.
“One of my more magical moments is to be in front of a basin of milk,” says Paradis. “I love creating different products, beginning with a liquid and turning it into a solid. Being in this industry means working with living things; you have to be constantly focused/attentive, in order to deliver quality cheeses. I’m able to develop my artistic side with this company, which still thrills me.”
Their products are on the shelves of around 50 retail stores throughout the Outaouais region and Ottawa. In the Lièvre, they are available at Fine & Fûtés and 15 retailers in the Petite-Nation, including the Metro stores in Chénéville, Saint-André-Avellin and Thurso, as well as the Marché Faubert and the Intermarché. They can also be purchased online on the company’s website.
You can also find Maggie and Christian at the public markets in Moussette Park on Thursdays, Westboro and Kanata on Saturdays and Lansdowne on Sundays. For this couple, direct contact with the customer is extremely rewarding.
“I like it when people come and ask me specific questions about agriculture. I enjoy helping them by sharing my experiences and advice,” concludes this passionate and energetic woman.
The SADC de Papineau-Collines has been involved with this business for many years. Last year, the economic development organization helped the owners of this cheese factory obtain a loan to deal with the pandemic and meet their obligations.
The SADC de Papineau-Collines has also promoted this business since its early days. This entrepreneurial couple believes that this important partnership has greatly facilitated the creation and development of their business.
Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères
955, Route 317, Saint-Sixte
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