After apprenticing at a local sheep milk dairy, Ruth and a partner opened Monforte Dairy in 2004 and started making sheep-milk cheeses in a rented facility in Millbank, Ontario, just north of Stratford, Ontario. The partnership dissolved early on, but Ruth continued making cheese and Monforte soon became known as southwestern Ontario’s premiere artisanal cheese company. Ruth, clad in her vintage apron, sold her signature Toscano and other cheeses at numerous markets in the GTA, quickly gaining fans and followers among foodies, chefs and people who like cheese and remembered when almost every small town in Ontario had a dairy.
Known for its range of extraordinary cheeses, Monforte has become supplier of choice to five-star restaurants, leading wineries and progressive food retailers throughout Ontario. In the fall of 2009, Ruth was invited to the State dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla at Rideau Hall where her cheese was featured on the menu.
In January 2009 Ruth, struck out on her own to realize her dream of creating Monforte a permanent home. Monforte Renaissance 2010, a revolutionary micro-financing campaign through Community Shared Agriculture (CSA), was conceived to raise the capital to build Monforte’s new dairy.
Why did you become a cheesemaker?
“I was a chef for 25 years and needed to transition to a gentler pace. Turns out, making cheese is hard work and delivers more pressure than I could have ever imagined. It’s worth it – I love making cheese and contributing to the sustainable farming movement. The 20 farms I deal with share my philosophy. Together, we try to make a world our great-grandchildren can live in.”
What makes your cheese artisanal?
“We use a variety of milks (cow, sheep and goat) to produce everything from ricotta and cheddars, to the exotic, moldy, French styles. To be considered ‘artisanal,’ the cheese must be handmade, using milk from under 20 farms. We only allow seasonal milk – meaning we don’t produce year-round. From October to January we stop milking and allow our ruminants to “dry” up as part of their natural lifecycle. Our partner farms don’t allow GMOs, pesticides, or herbicides and the dairy cows are all pastured.”
Photo by Nigel Dickson
As a food producer and an essential service, Monforte Dairy is committed to staying available in the community and honouring social distancing by providing a one-way distribution system.
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