The Farmer's Stand

Future of Jersey Cows for the Gulf Islands

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Quote Originally Posted by Firhill View Post
“Rich and silky, an organic cheese to make you anything but blue” Globe and Mail, January, 2010
“Sin on a cracker” Macleans Magazine – on Moonstruck organic cheese

Susan and Julia Grace own Moonstruck Dairy on Salt Spring Island, one of the first certified organic dairy and cheese producers in BC. At first, their farm was like most in the Gulf Islands. Part of island farming heritage, it was the former 1890's homestead of the Beddis family. Susan and Julia grew vegetables, had some chickens, and direct marketed their farm products. They had ventured into a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program, that involved providing a weekly box of seasonal organic farm products to customers. But one day in 1998 Susan came home with a Jersey cow, and everything changed.
The rich organic Jersey milk became butter and cheese, which was shared with their friends. Soon, everyone wanted to try the cheeses that Julia created. More cows were added and a milking parlour, cheese processing area and farm shop were built. A cottage industry license from the Milk Marketing Board was acquired. This allowed Moonstruck Dairy to hit the big time – cheese shops and quality restaurants. The awards soon followed, including two awards in 2008 from the World Jersey Cheese Festival on the Isle of Jersey, part of the International Jersey Conference. That year also saw their homebred cow, Printemps, classified as Excellent. Printemps is a product of both good food, good care and good breeding. (She is the daughter of the well known award winning bull Rock Ella Perimeter.)
All that fame has not changed things on the farm too much. A quaint farm shop has a self-serve cheese fridge and honour box. On a recent tour of the farm, my 8 yr old son Isaac selected Beddis Blue from their farm shop, which was almost completely devoured by both of us before the ferry loaded up to go home. Absolutely incredible flavour, colour and feel in your mouth – it is worth hunting down. Their cheeses are highly valued at the local farmer's market, where the feedback from customers is an important mix of quality assurance and social life for the busy farmers.
Until last week, Susan and Julia's biggest challenge was to ensure that they have the best organic feed for their cows, which comes at a premium price. The cows are fed a custom organic mix of lentils, peas and grains with alfalfa pellets. Their forage is a fine haylage, with a premium quality grass hay. All the cows and young stock are known by their names, incredibly well cared for and obviously serene and happy. They are raised according to organic principles that provide the cows with living conditions that allow them natural behaviours while promoting good health and low stress. The cost of living on the island is another challenge, both for the cost of feed and transportation, and also to pay fair wages for their milkers. The economic downturn has hurt many organic producers as consumers shift their preferences back to cheaper food. Organic dairy products are no exception to this. As belts tighten, the cows remain well cared for.
Then a single wheel of their award-winning Camembert cheese was found to test positive for Listeria through routine testing. No illnesses have been reported to date. This was alarming to Susan and Julia, who had installed a state of the art UV water purification system to ensure high product quality and safety. They quickly responded with a public statement of their regret for this happening, and an assurance that an extra layer of independent testing would be added to their cheese making protocol. The public have been very supportive and concerned for Susan and Julia, a reassuring sign that an educated and appreciative public can be a farmer's greatest ally.
The federal government has a policy recognizing that Listeria is essentially everywhere, and it may not be feasible to eradicate every trace of it. Foods are ranked according to relative risk, and a Listeria threshold is set according to the riskiness of the food product. It is also recognized that many people are exposed to Listeria but do not become ill and some of them may become carriers. Also, the very young, very old, immunocompromised and pregnant are most at risk and it would be practical for that part of the population to refrain from high risk foods. This policy is to provide guidance for health agencies. Last year the BC Medical Journal reported on a recent survey of leading public health nurses, obstetricians, midwives and family doctors who admitted their own knowledge about listeriosis is lacking, so they often do not advise high risk patients on food safety issues that could affect them.
Susan and Julia Grace are fortunate to be in a community with residents and visitors that value their farm and their products. The Jersey cows are efficient and bred for a forage diet, so have been dubbed “green cows” for their minimal impact on the environment. Another advantage to them is excellent veterinary care by Dr. Malcolm Bond, who's dad Jesse raised Jerseys many years ago on Salt Spring. Susan and Julia's hard work and attention to detail have given them a position in the dairy and cheese community that is well deserved. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in family and shared cows, and the size and sweet temperament of the Jersey is well suited to this.
Susan and Julia Grace are the new pioneers of Gulf Island agriculture, and it is so appropriate that the Jersey cow is again central to the success of a Gulf Island farm.

“I am lucky to live with animals and create delicious food. I like working with the cows, and combining creativity and a connection to nature” Julie Grace, Moonstruck Dairy cheesemaker and farmer



  1. Firhill -
    Firhill's Avatar
    After this article was published in Islands Independent Newspaper, Moonstruck Organic Dairy was given the green light to again produce and sell their wonderful cheeses with the support of the local community and the many happy customers of Susan and Julia.