Antigonish County farm adds value with organics

KNOYDART, N.S. —

Frazer Hunter looks out his office window and truly appreciates his surroundings. “We don’t count our blessings enough as Nova Scotians as to what we’ve got here,” says the Knoydart, Antigonish County resident, while gazing across Highway 245 at the Northumberland Strait. “We’re so fortunate to live in Canada and Nova Scotia and the area we live in.” Hunter is from a small town in Northumberland, England called Wooler, but has resided in Nova Scotia for more than 40 years.

He has lived in Knoydart, a small seaside community bordering Antigonish and Pictou counties, since 1998 where he operates Knoydart Farm – the only certified organic dairy farm east of Quebec. “We’ve gone a different route than a lot of people,” he says. “We didn’t buy more quota. We said we were going to add value to what we produce, so we got into organics.”

Hunter moved from the UK to Mabou, Inverness County in 1978. He worked for the Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO) in industrial development and purchased a dairy farm in the community in 1990. Hunter worked for various government development agencies throughout the 90s while his wife Angela worked on the farm. 

When the opportunity surfaced to purchase a larger dairy farm on the mainland where both he and Angela could make a living, the Hunters jumped at it.

Knoydart Farm is located on Route 245 near the Antigonish-Pictou county line. – Joey Smith

Knoydart Farm milks about 60 cows and uses its product to make cheddar cheese and fluid milk. Other milk from the farm goes to the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia. “So, it’s very good for us,” says Hunter. “We get our own milk, but any milk we are not utilizing, which is still in quota milk, is taken through the system and isn’t sold as organic milk.”

Every couple of days, a truck arrives at Knoydart Farm, collects milk, and makes its first stop at the Cheese House across the yard, where Hunter utilizes about 650 litres for his own locally made products. “Are we crazy?” he asks. “Some people think we are because (they say), ‘you’re doing this, why not see the milk truck leave at the end of the driveway and forget about it?’ But it’s what you want to do in life. You’ve got to be happy in what you want to do.”

Hunter transitioned from conventional dairy farming to organic dairy farming in Knoydart about 15 years ago. “There’s a segment of the population – about two or three per cent – that want organically produced product and they want to know where it’s coming from, so we entered that market. “You’ve got to produce a product for a market with a margin,” he adds. “And we saw there was probably a margin there – a better margin, so that’s why we started going organic.”

Hunter started producing cheese in 2009 and says the decision to make cheddar was dictated by the market, as a variety of other cheeses were already being made in Nova Scotia. “And the heritage,” he adds. “Where I’m from in the UK is where cheddar cheese came from and cheddar is a very common cheese for the public in Nova Scotia.” So, how does one learn how to make cheese?

“I read it in a book,” Hunter says matter-of-factly. Knoydart Farm offers between 10 and 15 different cheddars that are available at Sobeys and several other smaller retail locations throughout the province. The Hunters also sell their products at farmers’ markets in Antigonish, Mabou and New Glasgow, as well as online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Knoydart Farm is a family business where Frazer and Angela are joined by their son Adam and his wife Rena.

Antigonish County farm adds value with organicsA beautiful view from the Knoydart Farm Cheese House to the Northumberland Strait. – Joey Smith

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