Ferme Black Creek’s stand at Ormstown’s winter market.
Crédit photo : Sarah Rennie
Emily Southwood –
Denis Rousseau of Ferme Black Creek doesn’t have much free time. The passionate owner of the newly minted Cider and Maple Syrup enterprise in Rockburn, QC also works a 50-hour week in the pharmaceutical industry. But the chemist-cum-farmer clearly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Originally from Quebec City, the longtime Montrealer had no history in agriculture when he and his wife purchased the farm 10 years ago. This past August, Ferme Black Creek received their permit, and sold the 2015 vintage of their artisanal, naturally produced cider at Marché Fermier Huntingdon.
The inception of Ferme Black Creek spawned from a unique combination of influences—Denis and his wife’s passion for traveling to New England Cider festivals, and the opportunity that presented itself when they purchased a home in Rockburn to have more room for their dogs. The couple previously kept a weekend home in The Townships, but grew tired of packing up each weekend. They stumbled upon a property in The Valley with a 19th century home and 139 acres. “To me it was all forest,” he laughs. Then one day a neighbour came and inquired about tapping some of the trees.
With the realization that they’d purchased maple bush, Denis figured he might as well give maple syrup production a whirl. After learning everything he could from a teacher in Beauharnois (who handily brought his class to the farm) Denis learned the process. The first year he produced one drum, the second four, and now averages 22 or 23. “I’ve had several locals tell me it’s the best they’ve tasted,” he says. And that’s saying something in the heart of maple syrup country.
Since purchasing the farm, Denis always planned to produce cider. He began by planting 100 apple trees a year. He sought out specific varieties that yield a drier style of cider than what is typically produced in Quebec. “Just finding the trees 10 years ago was a challenge,” he explains. “Dry cider is popular in England and the US, but new to Quebec.” Denis ferments his apples over four months to enhance the flavour. The tannins add structure and body to the cider, ultimately yielding notes of citrus, pineapple, and exotic fruit. “But it’s not whatsoever sweet and has some acidity,” he goes on. “So we’re changing expectations. I’ve also planted red flesh apples to make a rosé version.”
As a chemist by trade, the knack for figuring things out comes naturally to Denis. He single handedly runs the impressive facility equipped with epoxy floors, washable walls, conveyor belts, and tanks, not to mention a bottling machine and label maker. “It all takes quite a bit of time to do alone,” he laughs. “I’m also quite stubborn.” The charming, adjoining front of shop (soon to be open to the public) is decorated with a 19th century post office counter, vintage scale and antique copper light fixtures. Denis plans to share his passion and picturesque farm with an open house and tasting come September 2018. Check in at fermeblackcreek.ca for more information to come.