The Big Cheese in a Small Quebec Town

Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick is a community that sits about 160km northeast of Montreal. On Friday nights between May and September, something special happens in this quaint municipality of less than 5,000 people. There’s a weekly gathering bringing together locals, tourists and the curious who all have one thing in common: a love of cheese! Although attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and various picnic items, those in the know buy the centrepiece of their meal on-site from Jean Morin. He’s the owner of the Fromagerie du Presbytère and the entrepreneur behind the much-loved cheese event nights.

The Fromagerie du Presbytère is a village landmark near the centre of Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick that occupies a heritage building constructed in 1936. This former rectory was acquired by the fromagerie in 2005 and renovations restored the building to its former glory so it could house a cheese shop with locally made products. Morin and his family manufacture and sell more than a dozen cheeses, including a brie, a blue and a cheddar. All are produced using cow’s milk from Ferme Louis d'Or (the family farm) and sheep’s milk provided by local suppliers.

“My life ethos is to feed people,” said Morin. He fondly remembers a formative exchange he had with one Mr. Picard at the Hamel Cheese Shop in Montreal. Morin enquired as to whether there was room for another cheese in the case and Picard reportedly replied, “If it’s good cheese, I have room.” Morin did intensive training in Europe, quickly learning various techniques and bringing that knowledge back to Quebec where he built his business.

"Probably the biggest success of the cheese business is the fact that the cheeses taste good. That’s undeniable."

- Jean Morin

Morin is a fourth-generation cheese maker who takes his vocation seriously. He told us, “. . . we are actually on the site of a small village, the farm is just next door, so we are really immersed in agriculture.” The agri-food business has always fascinated Morin, and he carefully monitors and controls the diet of his cows and the milk they produce for the best possible cheese. In fact, Morin’s farm cheeses are approved by Québec Vrai, a provincial organization that certifies organic home-grown products.

Cheese making is an art, but it’s also a business. “The challenge is all about getting better,” said Morin. “Not getting bigger but getting better.” That’s where GS1 Canada has been able to help. “For me, it’s one of the tools we needed for development,” Morin said, referring to his relationship with the organization. With a more robust distribution network, the fromagerie was able to start distributing cheese boxes by mail during the pandemic, leading to an online business.

Morin speaks warmly of the family and community that make his business special and successful. “These are people who care, who do great things, really good things, extraordinarily good things,” he said. “And I find it enjoyable to associate with them.” He’s talking about the local pastry maker, the vegetable producer and a purveyor of organic blueberries. He’s thinking of his children who will one day inherit the business and the cheese artisans he works with at the farm and the shop. Heritage and craftmanship are important to Morin, and he understands that quality ingredients make quality cheese.

If you ever find yourself in the Centre-du-Québec region and you have a hankering for cheese, you can stop by the the old presbytery. Even better, come on a Friday night in the summer and enjoy some entertainment and local hospitality with your cheese. There’s no better way to understand the heart and soul that go into the products of the Fromagerie du Presbytère.

Fromagerie du Presbytère is a family-run artisan cheese shop located between Montreal and Quebec City. The award-winning cheeses can be purchased at the fromagerie, in select grocery stores and through the website for shipment to customers in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.

To shop products and learn more, visit Fromagerie du Presbytère.

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