Goodness in Gouda: Thunder Oak Cheese Farm
For 21 years, Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, one of the original board members which began the market, has been providing goodness though their locally-made gouda cheese. This week we feature the Schep family and their contribution towards what has become a nationally-known but locally-made product.
Thunder Oak Cheese Farm dates back the original recipe for their well-known Gouda cheese to The Netherlands, where original founders Jacob and Margaret Schep immigrated from. Both from cheese making families, Jacob and Margaret immigrated to Canada with their children and began a dairy farm just south of Thunder Bay in 1981. In 1995, they began a small cheesemaking operation of their own. Since then, their son Walter and his family have taken over. In 2013, Thunder Oak Cheese Farm expanded, moving to a new location down the road. They now operate in a larger processing plant where they are able to meet the growing demand for their locally-made cheese. Interested in viewing their cheese making process? They offer visitors a chance to see this through the large windows to their processing room.
Thunder Oak Cheese Farm is the first farm in Ontario that produced Gouda cheese. This creamy Dutch cheese has long been a favourite of cheese lovers within Thunder Bay and surrounding area, as well as around the world. Their award-winning Thunder Oak Gouda is a natural product made with fresh milk from the Schep’s own Holstein cows, featured in over 13 different flavours plus a mild, medium, old and extra old aged. There are no preservatives or added colouring in their cheese, and many take advantage of this great product made so close to home. Come summer, you’ll find thousands of tourists which stop in at Thunder Oak while on their travels, many who make this a regular stop to pickup their “yearly” supply of cheese. For those who don’t reside in the area, Thunder Oak ships out hundreds of pounds of Gouda within Canada, every year.
Not only do they feature their cheese, however. A long-time popular product, their cheese curds have also become a hit, available as plain, garlic and cajun. Thunder Oak also takes pride in their background nationality, and features a wide variety of Dutch import products, from cookies, candy, spices and liquorice to Delft blue ceramics and tea towels. They also carry a large assortment of locally-made products within their storefront, including fresh baking in their small side cafe. Come Christmas time, the store becomes alive with festive decor and their very popular gift baskets, available for order ahead of time, at $40 and up. Worth the drive, you’ll not be disappointed as you make your way out through the scenic Slate River Valley on a trip to Thunder Oak Cheese Farm.
Thunder Oak features their cheese at a number of locations around town, both in the north and south end. From Shoppers to Safeway, George’s Market to Westfort Foods, Maltese Grocery to Country Fresh Meats, many local grocery locations are proud to feature Thunder Oak’s cheese in their storefront. You’ll also find Thunder Oak’s cheese on the menus of over 10 local seasonal and full-time restaurants, including Beaux Daddy’s, Gargoyles, Sweet North, Sovereign Room and many more. Of course, perhaps one of the longest standing locations which has always featured their cheese is the market itself. Thunder Oak has played an instrumental role as one of the founding members who helped begin Thunder Bay Country Market over 20 years ago. You’ll still find them there today, every Wednesday (until Wednesday markets end after Christmas) 3:30pm to 6:30pm, and every Saturday from 8:00am to 1:00pm. But hurry in early to get the cheese you want, because they tend to sell out of certain varieties fast!
Make Thunder Oak Cheese a gift for someone on your list this Christmas. Delicious and nutritious, their cheese is a locally-made product that will not disappoint, and perhaps even have them coming back for more; many are hooked once they give it a try!