THE ABC Cheese Factory at Central Tilba continues to go from strength to strength introducing three new cheese varieties and now employing 20 people.
Cheese and milk production at the factory began back in November 2012 realising a long dream for owners and dairy farmers Erica and Nic Dibden.
The factory now produces a wide range of cheeses under the South Coast Cheese label as well as the ever increasingly popular Real Tilba Milk, with all products containing the rich and tasty Jersey cow milk.
The new cheese varieties now being produced by master cheese maker Troy Charnock are the Three Udders Brie, a ricotta and also a Persian feta.
South Coast Cheese founder and dairy farmer Erica Dibden recently joined her cheese maker at a special conference and seminar at Werribee where they were learned more about everything from starter cultures, to new equipment and hygiene and food safety.
“It was also all about the science behind it,” Troy said.
The new Three Udders Brie was similar to existing Camembert but had a different starter culture and was richer with 1.5 litres of Jersey cream added to 30 litres of Jersey milk.
Erica and Troy also continue to get inspiration with ongoing “webinars” that sees cheese makers stay in touch through the internet.
The factory is now producing all week with Monday and Wednesdays the main cheese making days that visitors to the factory can view through the window in the main sales area.
“We’re always happy to get feedback on what people like, although the people down here on the coast may have different tastes than people up in Canberra,” he said.
South Coast Cheese now has a stall at the Canberra farmers market every Saturday and is now stocked in every IGA in the ACT.
Down on the coast, the milk and cheese is now stocked in IGA and Foodworks supermarkets from Nowra to Eden.
Dairy farming duo Nic and Erica Dibden are most proud that the milk, yoghurt, cheese and cream are the best-selling dairy products at these supermarkets.
They also hope to get more national recognition when they enter seven or eight of their products at the Royal Easter Show.
Nic says the demand was there to dramatically increase production of the milk but they were happy to continue to focus on quality and making their name.
One practical improvement was a new 21,000 litre milk vat at factory that means they can get a milk tanker in to deliver the milk instead of Nic carting around 1000 litres at a time behind the Landcruiser.
Their milk supply has now also been secured with a partnership with the Omeara family of Cobargo who have their own Jersey cow dairy.
In addition to boosting their own herd of Jersey cows at Central Tilba to 250 head, they now take all the milk from the Omeara’s 150 Jersey cows.
On the national level after years of depression, the cheese and milk industry is facing boom times.
Nic Dibden said in addition to higher demand and international prices due to a new Chinese taste for milk, there is also the fact that the Australian dairy industry had undergone dramatic rationalisation after deregulation.
“Production has been cut by a third from 13 billion litres to 9 billion litres,” he said.
Dairy farmers around Australia continued to be dismayed at the big supermarkets still charging a dollar a litre, a unsustainable and destructive pricing level.
But they are confident in their own product and people’s willingness to pay more for the best milk in the world with production of bottled milk reaching 20,000 plus litres of milk a week.
Erica Didben also plans on holding more cheese making classes at the factory and also having school students visit to learn more about the industry and primary production.