Located near Park Lake and Coalhurst — Lethbridge County is home to an innovative and delicious commodity.
The local cheese maker produces feta, Gouda, cheddar, havarti, goat cheese and other specialty cheeses.
Jacob Beijer’s family has owned the cheese business since 2005. The family moved to the area in the early 1990s.
“We took it over from somebody that started in the 1980s — the same company,” said Beijer. His dairy-based entrepreneurial family originally moved to Canada from Holland.
According to Beijer, the cheese factory at least doubles production during the summer.
Crystal Springs Cheese hires between four and five employees in the winter and in the summer production usually ramps up, as staff increases to between five and eight employees.
“We cater a lot to the restaurant industry and food service. Restaurants, especially in Vancouver and Toronto, they pick up a lot of business in the summer time, when tourism rolls around. We notice that as well — our sales pick up with that,” noted Beijer, adding cheese products made locally are sold at The Wooden Shoe and Sobey’s in Lethbridge and at the Farmers’ Market at Exhibition Park.
“It’s a good way to get your product out there and get people to taste it and try it out,” he explained, in regards to selling cheese at Farmers’ Markets in the area.
Currently, Crystal Springs Cheese is distributed throughout Canada with an immense customer base on the West Coast, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and of course in Alberta.
“We’ve been focusing on feta ever since we started and we’ve just been listening to our customers — what they want changed and trying to get as good of a product as we can. It seems like once we got our product established the sales keep picking up so people like our cheese,” said Beijer, adding southern Albertans are starting to catch on about the cheese maker in the area, since the factory’s recent award win.
“It was a national cheese competition in Toronto. There was, I think, over a hundred cheese factories that entered in there, with close to 300 cheeses entered, I think, different categories. We won in the feta category,” he said, adding it was the business’s first big win and the first attempt entering a contest.
“It’s a bi-annual thing, so next time we’ll have to try again,” he added.
Right now, it’s business as usual with the factory producing a couple of batches of feta every day.
“Our Gouda and our cheddar and our havarti — we just do once or twice a week or whatever the demand is. More in the summer time when the markets are all around,” said Beijer, adding Crystal Springs Cheese is in the growing stages.
“We’re in the process of expanding our building and once that’s done we can do a little bit more again. We don’t want to get really big but just a little big bigger.”