Skip to content

Best Baa Dairy: Fergus's small but mighty creator of sheep milk products

The Bzikot family is proud to be a family-run operation making unique products from sheep milk supplied by Amish farmers
0

It's not often you hear of a business that isn't looking to get any bigger.

But the Bzikot family is quite happy with the size, and success, of Best Baa Dairy, the Fergus-based creator of dairy products made entirely from sheep's milk.

"We've never intended to be huge. We've never intended to be a bigger business. As long as we give everyone a good income along the route, we're happy," says Elisabeth Bzikot, the matriarch of the Bzikot family.

"We're at capacity and we have no desire to grow," says their daughter-in-law Nicole, who now runs the dairy with husband Peter.

"There's definitely a village model to how we do things ... there's a real beauty to that. We like that we're small."

Elisabeth and Eric Bzikot started Best Baa Farm in 2001, with the production facility opening in 2008.

The dairy grew out of a sheep's milk cooperative they helped establish in 2001 called 'Ewenity Dairy Co-operative' that eventually dissolved.

Best Baa creates a variety of cheeses, drinking milk and yogurt made exclusively from sheep milk sourced from 10 Amish family farms.

"It's a bit creamier and sweeter than cow's milk, but without the aftertaste of goat's milk," is how Nicole describes dairy products made from sheep milk.

It also has the added benefit of being a dairy product that can be eaten by many of those that are intolerant to cow's milk.

Originally fixtures on the farmer's market circuit and at Toronto's famed St. Lawrence Market for years, they now sell their products through roughly 70 stores in Toronto, at Goodness Me and the Stone Store in Guelph, in Fergus at Frabert's Fresh Food Market and at the dairy's small production facility at 820 Gartshore St.

"We don't do much advertising," Elisabeth says. "We sell all we produce. We're busy all the time."

They also spent 12 years selling products at Toronto's famed St. Lawrence Market, which is where art student Nichole met and fell in love with Peter 10 years ago.

Nichole says their market generally fall into three categories: those that can't eat cow's milk, foodies into trying interesting and crafted food and those that support local, sustainable farming.

The family spent a lot of time in the early years promoting their product, at farmer's markets, trade shows and the like. Now the food culture is changing, with people looking to try different things and seek them out.

"It basically took 15 years to expand the market," Nicole says.

Elisabeth and Eric originally came to Canada from England in 1984, settling in Manitoba intent on becoming grain farmers. They relocated to just outside Arthur in 1998.

Dealing with traditional Amish milk producers has its challenges.

The milk has to be kept at a certain temperature, something that was done with ice and cold water by many of their suppliers until a number of them were willing to accept small solar-powered coolers.

"It's good for them. It's good to be able to give them an income," Elisabeth says.

Best Baa Dairy processes about 110,000 litres of sheep milk a year, a relatively tiny amount by dairy industry standards.

But other than the fact they could use a little more storage and floor space at their production facility, they're fine with the numbers.

On a visit to the family farm just north or Arthur, Elisabeth dons her overalls, winter hat and rubber boots to take a visitor out to visit sheep in the barn.

"We come from farming. We know how hard it is to make a living in farming," she says. "When you're in farming not having huge amounts of money is something you're used to.

"Nobody's got a fortune, but everyone makes a decent living."

More about Best Baa's products and where to find them can be found at www.bestbaa.com




Comments