February 2, 2021
IN THE HEART OF CANADA'S FOOD ISLAND
After 20 years in Canada's restaurant sector, chef, cookbook author and culinary teacher Jeff McCourt was tantalized by a new food venture -- to launch an artisanal gouda cheese-making company in the scenic hills of New Glasgow, P.E.I. Glasgow Glen Farm, opened in 2014, quickly grew into a popular family-owned business with wife Grace vice president of sales and marketing; his mother-in-law financial manager; and children Finn and Molly apprentice bakers, farmers and cheesemakers.
The COVID-19 pandemic created sudden challenges for McCourt with the rapid shut down of restaurants and retail outlets and the contraction of the tourism sector, resulting in his cautious business planning one quarter at a time. In 2021, with the support of Food Island Partnership's Food Propel program, McCourt is beginning to see hopeful possibilities again.
"Food Propel -- both the mentors and curriculum -- have guided us through the challenges we face," says McCourt. "We don't feel alone on this journey with other experienced entrepreneurs helping us filter out negative noise and establish a plan to take us in an exciting new direction,"
McCourt moved quickly to create an online store featuring multiple varieties of Gouda cheese, Acadian-style meat pies, granola, and a selection of baked goods for pickup. "Our online store fills a void from our traditional retail, and we're growing social media presence through strategic partnerships and our authentic approach."
The support of the local market is also encouraging. "Last year, we saw a real uptake from Islanders getting out and exploring, supporting Island businesses. We foresee much of the same for 2021, and we're optimistic about an Atlantic bubble for the summer season."
McCourt plans to advance his location as a food destination by reimagining the usage of his second floor and 10 acre parcel of land overlooking the Clyde River. Already populated with picnic tables for out-door dining, the Farm's stone-baked pizzas with gouda cheese, giant cinnamon rolls, and other luncheon items invite customers to linger. McCourt is actively engaged in recipe development for new whey-driven products to maximize the yield of his raw milk supply.
All these innovations are increasing McCourt's optimism about the future. "Five years from now, I see us as a sustainable, efficient family operation, producing quality cheese and other food products in the heart of Canada's Food Island."
By Magner Ink (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on the P.E.I. Food Cluster.