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Sylvan Star Cheese

Savour the Flavour: A Gouda Experience in Alberta!

The best gouda cheese in the world is from... Alberta?

Have you ever wondered where the best Gouda cheese in Canada comes from?

No, it’s not from a distant European land, but right here in Alberta!

Nestled in the heart of the province, Sylvan Star Cheese has been churning out award-winning cheeses that have not only delighted the taste buds of Canadians but have also garnered international acclaim.

A Star is Born

The story of Sylvan Star Cheese is as rich and textured as the cheeses they produce

It all started with a cow called Gerda—pronounced Herda—if you say it the Dutch way. And a Dutch cheesemaker called John Schalkwijk, who landed in Alberta and became a big cheese (excuse the pun).  

One cow soon became ten, and John did what came naturally. He made his own Gouda—pronounced Howda, as in Howda’s that taste so good

photo of shelves of curing gouda cheese
Cheese curing at Sylvan Star Cheese. Photo by Sylvan Star Cheese

Establishing a profitable milk farm in the small country of Holland was challenging. Given that 10 litres of milk is needed to produce one kg of cheese, it meant managing many cows across fragmented lands. John would spend hours moving between different parcels of land.

Not the most efficient way to make cheese.

Seeking a fresh start with more land, John and his wife, Janneke, considered Denmark and Germany but also explored Ontario, Manitoba, and finally, Alberta in 1988.

Instantly, he felt Alberta was perfect.

Alberta was also a wise choice because its residents consumed an average of 6.1 kg of cheese each, slightly above the national average.

John started his farm in 1992 near Sylvan Lake, Alberta. Starting with nothing, they installed utilities, built a house, acquired cattle, and began farming.

Initially, John ran a simple dairy farm. But his cheese-making roots soon called, and in no time, he had a thriving business making Gouda from scratch, the traditional Dutch way. 

In 2000, he won the award for best Gouda at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

But John kept perfecting his craft, transforming his cheese-making dream into a reality, creating cheeses free of additives and full of taste. His cows are never given hormones, ensuring the milk is as pure as the Alberta air.

New Beginnings with Familiar Faces

photo of man holding a ring of gouda with shelves of goda chesse in the background
Art Snoek at Sylvan Star Cheese.

By 2022, John was ready to retire, so he handed the cheese baton to the capable hands of Jennifer and Art Snoek.

The new owners are uniquely qualified, having grown up immersed in cheese-making. In fact, Art Snoek grew up in the Netherlands close to the city of Gouda (of course!) and is a 6th generation cheese-maker.

Before taking over Sylvan Star, Jennifer and Art already owned a successful artisan cheese shop in Innisfail called Alberta Pike.

Jennifer and Art Snoek took over Sylvan Star in February 2022, maintaining Art’s ancestral recipe for his Alberta Pike cheese and making John’s traditional recipes for Sylvan Star. 

The milk from John’s son’s dairy farm continues to be the source for Sylvan Star, guaranteeing the consistent taste of the acclaimed cheese.

Jennifer and Art are committed to maintaining the high standards set by John and continue the tradition of producing top-notch Gouda.

A Visit to Remember

a black-n-white photo of a lone cow in a pasture
Gerda, the first cow. Photo Sylvan Star Cheese

But don’t take our word for it; you can check out Sylvan Star Cheese Farm for yourself. If you’re a cheese enthusiast or just looking for a delightful day trip, visit the farm, watch the cheese-making process, and sample delectable products. 

And let’s not forget the Cheese Farm Store, where you can purchase your favourite Gouda to take home. From mild to extra aged, smoked to spiced, there’s a Gouda for every palate.

A Staple at Calgary Farmers’ Market

For those who can’t make it to the farm, fret not! Sylvan Star Cheese has a prominent presence at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. 

As the market’s website boasts, this is where city folks can get their regular Gouda fix, along with other dairy delights that Sylvan Star Cheese has to offer.

In a world where artisanal products are increasingly cherished, Sylvan Star Cheese stands out as a beacon of quality and tradition. 

It’s not just about cheese; it’s about the love, passion, and dedication that goes into every wheel of Gouda. 

So, the next time you’re in Calgary or Sylvan Lake, treat yourself to a Gouda experience like no other. 

After all, life’s too short for ordinary cheese!

And special thanks to Gerda for all she started!

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