Hugh and Pippa Stables run Wandering Ewe Dairy in North Somerset. They produce a hard, unpasteurised, ewes’ milk cheese from their own flock of sheep. 2021 was their third year of commercial cheese production. This is the second of 12 monthly blogs, which are intended to give a flavour of the year.
We are approaching peak season for cheese sales. We deliver our last Summer 2020 cheeses next week. So this month’s piece is about product development and sales.
In the summer of 2017, as we were in the process of establishing our dairy flock, I bought some elastic, creamy, nutty, Alpine cows’ cheese from Chandos Deli in Clifton. This became the starting template for our cheese. In the Spring of 2020 our cheese went on sale in this same shop. My smile went from ear to ear.
Flexibility was a compelling practical reason for us to make hard cheese. We are short handed, seasonal milkers and cheesemakers. This means Summer is frantic. Producing a hard cheese allows us to push many activities away from Summer. But there are downsides. We have to store and look after the cheese, and the cashflow is poor. We now sell cheese from 9 months maturity (January) through to 14-16 months (December).
I love the rich, creamy strong flavours of soft and blue cheese. But hard cheese has longer subtler flavours. You can taste the pasture in the cheese.
We started selling small packaged cheeses at our local farmers markets and supplying a few local shops. We are still supplying the shops, but have pulled back from markets, as it is difficult to make them work with just a single product. For the last 18 months we have been selling more to delis and the odd restaurant. It is wonderful to have energetic people with a passion for food telling our story and promoting our cheese. Up to now we have not sold any cheese further than 7 miles away. But we are extremely close to foodie Bristol.
As we expand we will likely need a wholesaler and may look at online sales. But for now we are following the advice of my favourite Youtube small farmer (Pete)- who tells me we need to keep sales, infrastructure and production in lock step, or things get messy. Makes sense.
There is an old marketing phrase that you must “eat your own dog food”. Luckily we are in the cheese business. We sampled our 2021 cheese at lunch yesterday. I have another big smile on my face.
Text and Images (C) Hugh & Pippa Stables @wandering.ewe
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