Goats’ cheese producer taps into local markets

Waitrose is knocking at the door for the second time, while Sainsbury’s and Tesco have already been turned down.

It is a situation that many small producers dream of, but the cheese produced on farm by a Yorkshire couple is there to be enjoyed first and foremost by local people, insists Tom Wallis.

At present, his Lowna Dairies makes about 18kg a day of soft and hard goats’ cheese that “doesn’t taste too goaty”.

But growing demand means he is expanding the dairy for the third time in five years, and now makes nine different cheeses, several flavoured with herbs.

The dairy grew out of a kennels business, which Mr Wallis still runs with wife Tricia, because puppies love goats’ milk.

“We’ve had the goats since 1973, but eight or nine years ago, we had a granddaughter who was lactose intolerant, so we decided to try and get licensed to sell the milk,” explains Mr Wallis.

Cheese soon followed in 2000, as well as natural yoghurt and now ice-cream and sorbet.

Mr Wallis’ latest idea is to produce jars of cubed goats’ cheese in oil, to sell initially at Weeton’s Farm Shop in Harrogate (see Farmers Weekly 18 Nov, p21).

“It’s taken off and we’re just trying to keep up,” said Mr Wallis.

“We supply the top restaurants in Yorkshire, as well as Harvey Nichols in Leeds.

“I’m a Yorkshireman, and I want to provide people with the opportunity to buy direct from the producer.

I’m not against supermarkets, but a lot of us should produce in the market for independent food.

I don’t want to go down the road of making job lots for third parties.”

The farm now milks 33 goats, with a further 19 in kid and 20 young animals.

Mr Wallis now aims to treble the size of the herd.