THE GOURLAY FAMILY
In the late 1990's, Clarke and Nancy Gourlay returned from years of living overseas to French Creek, the scenic region between Parksville and Qualicum. The location was ideal to raise their 3 sons near family and to explore their dream of making Swiss-style artisan cheese on their own farm. That dream became a reality when, in 2001, they got final approvals in place and founded Little Qualicum Cheeseworks on a leased dairy farm, milking a handful of cows, and making cheese in a renovated school portable. In 2004 the Gourlays were able to purchase their own 90-acre dairy farm in the same area - Morningstar Farm. After an iconic cattle drive down a public road and the elaborate process of moving their cheese plant to the new location, they were quickly set up and in business.
Right from the start, at their own location, the vision was to welcome the general public onto their farm for what they call "excellent tastes, products, and experiences." With the extended family and a terrific team of staff, they gradually built on the various components and aspects of the business and today their farm is open 7-days-a-week and visitors can meet our herd of 50 mixed-breed dairy cows, watch the live-stream of our robotic milker (DeLeval VMS) in action, and interact with the calves and a variety of "petting farm" animals like chickens, sheep, goats, pot bellied pigs, horses, and ponies. The cheese plant has a an outside deck for watching the cheesemaking in action and an adjoined farmgate store where guests can sample a wide range of artisan cheese and the specialty fruit wines.
The Gourlays are eager to keep growing and changing and recently installed Canada's first milk-on-tap dispenser where visitors can bring a reusable jug or purchase a glass bottle from the store, and fill up on fresh, whole, non-homogenized milk right from the farm. It's still pasteurized just as all other milk in Canada but they've found a growing number of people who want the direct farm-to-table experience of seeing the cows in person and picking up fresh milk from the same location. In an effort to further serve their local community and add value to visitors' experience on the farm, they also opened their own seasonal "calfe" featuring gourmet paninis, baked goods, wine, sangria and "Canada's Freshest Lattes" with their own milk.
In the Fall of 2018 Clarke was elected Area Director for Area G in the Regional District of Nanaimo. He focused most of his attention on his role in public office while also co-managing the business with Nancy and eldest-son, Raymond. On June 29, 2019 Clarke Gourlay died in a mountaineering accident in Strathcona Park. His immense vision and passion are largely to be credited for the success of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and his loss has left a significant hole in the business.
Today, the whole family continues to live on the farm. Nancy co-manages the business with Raymond and spends her free time trail riding and camping. Raymond lives on the farm with his wife Rebecca, who is a teacher, and their children: Kieran and Dahlia. John works full time as a herdsman on the farm and spends his free time cruising on his motorcycle and taking on ambitious woodworking projects. Kevin is a full time student at Vancouver Island University and also runs a busy farrier business servicing the mid-Island.
Over the years of change and growth, the Gourlays have remained committed to their passion for quality local food, sustainable agriculture, animal welfare, and providing a fun, educational, and delicious experience to all visitors of the farm and customers of their cheese across British Columbia.