IT has been just over one year since ABC Tilba Real Milk was first bottled at the South Coast Cheese factory at Central Tilba.
It has been a momentous year for business founders and dairy farmers Erica and Nic Dibden, who started out bottling around 1000 litres of milk a week.
Production has grown to around 25,000 litres of milk a week that is now not only stocked at local IGA supermarkets and independent fruit and veg shops from Batemans Bay to Pambula, but also is very popular at farmers markets in Canberra and Sydney.
“I can’t say how important the support of the local shop owners who were brave enough to stock a new product has been,” Erica said.
“Their support was fundamental is establishing our brand and the success we have already achieved.
“We have now expanded to farmers markets where we are bringing the producer to the consumer, who increasingly is willing to pay a little more for quality, sustainable food that they know where it comes from.”
Erica, Nic and their staff of 19 full-time and part-time workers, who commute to Tilba from Bermagui, Cobargo, Tilba and Narooma, now plan to take a deep breath.
Rather than trying to increase production even more, they will focus on perfecting and streamlining milk and cheese production.
Cheese making is one area that should see some exciting developments over the next year with more new varieties and also cheese-making classes held in the factory due to start later this month.
Handmade cheeses include cheddars, Camembert, haloumi, fetta, Colby, Havarti and even a “Tilba Jack” based on the American Monterey Jack.
Life has become a whirlwind of activity for the husband and wife team, who still run their 200-head Jersey cow dairy farm at Tilba Tilba just down the road from the factory that supplies all the raw product.
When not getting up early to milk, deliver the milk to the factory, running and planning factory production, there is so much to do with marketing and travelling up to the farmers markets.
Erica’s message for the locals reading this article is a dollar spent on something locally produced means the dollar stays here.
“Every dollar spent is a dollar spent in the local community that goes back to producing the local product and employing the staff,” she said.
“Making a conscious decision to buy local will help keep the local community vibrant, alive and prospering.”
Someone who makes that decision as often as possible is Annie Ray of Bermagui who stopped in at the factory with her daughter Asha from Sydney to pick up more supplies for their homemade yoghurt making operation.
“It makes the best yoghurt I have ever tasted,” said Annie, who used Erica’s own yoghurt as the culture or starter.
Along with the delicious yoghurt, ABC Tilba Milk has also started selling luscious thick Jersey cream.
The district and region now relied on tourism more than ever before and food production could tie nicely into the business of attracting more visitors to the region.
The television show River Cottage Australia and events such as the Narooma Oyster Festival were doing their part to increase the profile of the Far South Coast as a region of natural beauty, sustainable farming and a fantastic natural product.
“It is a great feeling that someone in Sydney or Canberra will be opening their fridge and seeing our brand and the Tilba name,” she said.