We at beijingkids are very “cheesed” (sorry!) to introduce Yellow Valley Cheese (YVC), based in the village of Chenjinyi, in Yangqu County, Shanxi Province. We met founder Marc de Ruiter at one of the city’s famous yearly Christmas bazaars and fell in love with the taste.
Get to know the Cheese
According to de Ruiter, YVC produces “natural artisan farmhouse cheeses based on a Gouda cheese-making recipe. We use a traditional recipe that has not changed in 100 years. We do not make any other kinds as this is our specialty.” This specialty cheese comes in five different flavors: Original, Herbs de Provence, Onion with Garlic, Spicy Italian and Cumin.
Yellow Valley Cheese experts are, de Ruiter says, “the only cheese makers that produce ‘fair-trade’ natural, artisan farmhouse Gouda cheese in China. No artificial ingredients or coloring like almost all imported cheeses. I do not think one can find a cheese in China that combines those four aspects: natural, artisan, fair-trade, and farmhouse cheese into one.”
Buy a wheel, or three…
At Yellow Valley, prices range from about RMB 60-75 per piece depending on weight, flavor, and maturity. Aged cheese costs a bit more than younger, original flavored cheeses. “People unfortunately compare our prices with cheap industrial cheeses,” de Ruiter tells us. “However there are no similar cheese imported into China that can match our freshness.” YVC can only be bought online through Taobao, WeChat shop, and their official webshop www.cheeseinchina.com. They do not yet do package deals; however they are open to customer needs. For example, de Ruiter says, “If someone wants to pre-pay for 10 cheeses in a year or more, we can give them a considerable discount. They can either tell us what they want each month, or they can let us surprise them.” In addition, de Ruiter insists readers should try the cheese, and so is willing to ship cheese for free anywhere in China in the month of April if this article in beijingkids is mentioned.
De Ruiter started his cheese brand in 2003 when there was a surplus of milk in China. “I saw farmers lose money, and discouraged, throw away their milk… when the milk crisis hit China in 2003, it was the occasion for me to put these all together. [I wanted to] help those farmers make good, natural cheeses, as well as to provide ‘cheese hungry’ Westerners [with]excellent cheese.” YVC makes fresh cheese every other day, and sells milk and yogurt locally to help market more of the farmer’s milk.
Not only has YVC invested itself into helping farmers generate more revenue, but it has also provided jobs within the local community. After over 16 years of living in Chenjinyi, de Ruiter has been able to spend lots of time at several villages and among the villagers and their families. “The wives [of the farmers]often had lots of ‘spare’ time. Qing Qing, our cheesemaker, never before had a job and was introduced to us by a friend. I trained her and now she is responsible for the day-to-day running of the farmhouse. She is very glad to have such a meaningful and flexible job.” De Ruiter insists that farmers are his inspiration. “It would be easier to import cheeses rather than make them in China, but due to my goals to help small-scale dairy farmers, China seemed like the right move.”
Service with a slice of cheese
De Ruiter is inspired everyday by what he describes as his “Judeo-Christian background, which has created a desire to ‘serve the people’. For me, making money for myself or pursuing my own career, has never been interesting. I get a lot of joy and meaning out of helping others.”
To learn more about the inspiring story behind Yellow Valley Cheese visit www.yellowvalleycheese.com. For purchasing details go to www.cheeseinchina.com.
Photo courtesy of Yellow Valley Cheese
This is an updated version of the article that originally appeared on p. 15 of beijingkids April Issue. Download the digital copy here.