A newly formed company focussed on developing Northern-made agricultural fare has launched its first product.
O'Clay, a project of the Abitibi Commons initiative, introduced Abitibi Chevre--an artisanal goat's milk cheese--on Dec. 14 in Iroquois Falls.
Manufactured just down the highway in Kapuskasing by Fromagerie Kapuskoise, Abitibi Chevre is handcrafted using traditional techniques.
"We buy Mennonite goat's milk from this area--Val Gagne in particular --and then it's sent to Kapuskasing to be transformed into cheese," said Shelley Jessup, administrative manager for Abitibi Commons, who describes it as a wholesome, high-quality cheese.
To start, the cheese already has two distributors--Seguin's ValuMart in Iroquois Falls and Pick of the Crop grocery store in Timmins --and the response from consumers has been positive.
"At the Valu-Mart in Iroquois Falls, it's been selling very, very well," Jessup said. "People are very pleased with the product."
Abitibi Commons was established as a partnership between the community of Iroquois Falls and Riversedge Developments after the closure of the former Resolute Forest Products paper mill in 2014. Riversedge purchased the property promising to work with the community on a redevelopment effort with the goal of spurring economic development.
The 80-acre property includes 50,000 square feet of warehousing space, an additional 53,000 square feet of office space, nine loading docks, rail access with a holding capacity of 32 rail cars, silos, clarifier units and 2,100 acres of potential farmland.
To date, a farmers market has taken up residence on the site, and Jessup said the introduction of the O'Clay brand is the next step in the initiative.
The idea is to work with local producers to develop a number of new opportunities for production all under the O'Clay brand, and Abitibi Chevre is just the first product being introduced.
Next up is a potato-processing plant, which will be installed in one of the still-standing structures on the former Resolute property, said Jessup, who noted there is also warehouse room for storage and loading bays ideal for transporting goods.
The operation will source potatoes from local Mennonite farmers, and other producers who are interested in participating, and potatoes will be washed, graded, and bagged at the facility.
"It's one of the first in this region, and we're looking at starting at a smaller capacity, say, 25 acres, and growing it to 100 acres within a couple of...