June 30, 2011

“It got out of hand.”  That’s how entrepreneur Bruce VandenBerg, his face in a big smile, describes the growth of their small goatherd into a large cheese processing plant.  Bruce and his wife, Sharon, are obviously pleased with the progress of their business, and they were recognized for its achievements recently, when they received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the 2011 Conference of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.

Bruce and Sharon VandenBerg are the proud proprietors of Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario.  Both graduates of Kemptville College of Agriculture – Sharon in Food Service and Bruce in Ag Business – the two purchased their first farm soon after they were married in 1985.  Their first goats were purchased in 1987 and the cheese plant was built in 1989.  By 1991, the herd numbered 130 animals.  But then, things got out of hand, and today that goatherd has increased to 1500 milking does, cared for by 16 employees, with additional goat’s milk being purchased from another dairy.

The cheese plant started on-farm with 3 employees, but now fills a large facility in Lindsay with 40 full time staff members.  “Our cheese products are shipped across Canada and the US; now we’re looking into international markets,” VandenBerg adds.

The VandenBergs were chosen from several nominees for Entrepreneur of the Year Award, based on a variety of criteria.  Diana Jedig, Executive Director of the OACFDC, says the independent judges are seeking businesses that demonstrate excellence with their products and services, and that benefit the community in which they are located.  “Our judges look for the employment that is created by the business, and how the entrepreneur might benefit other businesses in the community,” Jedig adds.  The nominations for Entrepreneur of the Year come from Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) where the entrepreneur received a loan and business assistance.

Mariposa Dairy fit the bill, with their strong growth and employment opportunities.  They also boost Lindsay’s economy by purchasing local goat’s milk, and having dairy equipment designed and built by a local manufacturer.

“The growth of Mariposa Dairy has led to jobs:  jobs in the community, creating opportunities for individuals and families,” says Andrew Wallen of the Kawartha Lakes Community Futures Development Corporation.  Wallen nominated Mariposa Dairy for the prestigious award.  He is the General Manager of the Kawartha Lakes CFDC.  Located in Lindsay, this office serves the area with advice and loans for small business, as well as initiatives and projects in community economic development.

This award is not the first for Mariposa Dairy.  They have been recognized in the past for their quality products.  “These people don’t rest on their laurels or on the awards that they’ve won; in fact, they hardly ever rest. They just continue to work and to achieve, and to bring the company and the individuals in the company along with them sharing the vision and enjoying the success,” Wallen explains.