Delectable cheese, tasty beef, and moving on up the value chain — LIVE! with Jeff Nonay

Jeff Nonay is a busy guy. He’s the owner of Lakeside Dairy just outside of Edmonton, Alta., that has value-added processes that go above and beyond the norm. It’s not only a dairy, but also a grain and potato operation, plus there’s a direct-marketing beef business and a cheese-making facility on-farm. What does it take to make it all work? Watch below!

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  • The farm is 35 km north of Edmonton, in Sturgeon county, moved to current location in ’76, ’77
  • In 2000, added seed potatoes to the mix, after transition to Nonay’s ownership, expanded the dairy
  • 2010, barn expansion, cheese processing plant, truly a value-added dairy chain, building a brand
  • Beef, too! Connected with a butcher shop to sell there
  • Retail market comes with its own challenges, lots of work to do it right
  • Kept it simple on the beef side, relying on a retail location to do distributing and handling, being able to service it from the outside
  • Friends with a restaurateur, opened up a burger joint (now two)
  • Control over prices on the beef side, not selling individual cuts, premium wholesale system, exclusive enough to attach a brand
  • Nonay Beef is the brand to look out for
  • Connecting the name and the face is nice for these restaurants
  • Someone from Texas was in the restaurant, was nice to see the farmer that grew that beef
  • Cheese side: not celebrated or advertised just how many on-farm cheese operations there are
  • Lakeside Farmstead is the cheese brand
  • Gaining traction? What size of retail chain do you approach, Sunterra, Italian markets? Sobey’s? or little boutiques and personal relationships
  • Volume, consistency becomes the biggest concern, the larger the retail
  • Little Potato Company got into Costco, grind of pricing, different focus
  • Cheese that sell quickly have a short shelf-life, cash flow problems to navigate
  • What’s a mistake you made early on? Not connecting the brand with the product at first, don’t make your first impression with a Ziploc bag, if you can
  • Entering the food market, food safety, quality concerns? Head cheese-maker Ian is instrumental, came with a lot of experience about programs and procedures
  • Insurance? How to mitigate the risks with an on-farm cheese plant. Becomes a line item in the costs
  • Need the right people to be able to be successful.
  • Doing inventory, handling accounts, seems to be daunting and heavy, systems approaches that make up the background infrastructure that’s part of the value-added chain
  • Selling 200 kg of cheese per week is exciting, but also stressful
  • Farm tours? Shaun had him up until he said petting zoo. Still have to set the hours and have gates. Boundaries people
  • A happening Friday night? Imagine a farm in the middle of a town between Montreal and Quebec City that serves cheese boards, where people show up in camper vans to get cheese from a converted church… cheese towns
  • Managing everything? They’re at a bit of a crossroads where they need to get help with the bookkeeping
  • Coming up on the third anniversary of a barn fire, there’s a new calf barn, new heifer shed, new cheese plant, Jeff needs to take a breather
  • Barn fires are devastating, but Jeff’s looking forward to reflecting on how far they’ve come since then and the fact that they were able to rebuild, bit of a renewal of the farm
  • Recommendations for adding value to any type of farm? Do your research, connect with people already doing what you want to do. Go slow
  • Jeff shows us the cheeeeeese

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