Churning out 10 years of cheese making

Julian Benson Apostle Whey Cheese

Dairy farmers Julian and Dianne Benson will tomorrow celebrate a decade of cheese making at their Cooriemungle property.

Apostle Whey Cheese was born on October 29, 2005 and has since taken out a number of major cheese awards and become an important tourism draw card for the region.

Mr Benson said the venture continued to be a labor of love. He said it combined his passion for farming, the environment and boutique production.

“We started out determined to develop a paddock to plate enterprise and an artisan cheese brand that celebrated the way we farm and the quality of our milk,” he said.

“Ten years on, our facility here is certainly much bigger, we’re moving bigger volumes and our team has grown considerably, but I’m most proud that we’ve managed that growth and stayed true to what we believe in.”

Mr Benson said every single decision that was made at the farm was about milk quality. “I think we’ve become very good cheese makers, but I’m a big believer that the way we care for our animals plays a huge part in the quality of our products,” he said.

“We’re always striving for the perfect balance between mother nature and production. Our cows are grass-fed, have lots of paddock space and plenty of shelter. Happy animals save energy and that reflects in the quality of milk we make our cheeses with.”

The Benson family started with a Friesian herd, but has since crossbred Aussie Reds with Jerseys for higher butterfat and protein levels, which is important for flavour. The milk is piped directly from the dairy to the adjacent cheese factory where the Apostle Whey Cheeses are made by hand.

“If you’d told me 10 years ago that we’d have four Dairy Industry Awards for our cheeses, that we’d be stocked in 100 stores and be value-adding to 2500 litres of our own milk every week I would’ve had a good old laugh,” he said.

“We still love it and enjoy playing our role to help showcase the region. There’s lots of interest – this Friday we’ve got a delegation of food journalists from China, Indonesia and Malaysia coming to showcase our gourmet region to their consumers.

“Sometimes I feel more like an ambassador than a dairy farmer,” Mr Benson quipped.

Apostle Whey Cheese is open everyday of the year, except Christmas Day. The farm, dairy, cheese factory and retail shop are all located at 9 Gallum Rd, Cooriemungle.