WHEN you live on a dairy farm located adjacent to one of Australia’s busiest tourist roads, you can either complain about the noise or make the most of the passing traffic.
Legendairy farmer Kaye Courtney could always see the potential customer base that went right past the front door of her family’s dairy farm on the South Gippsland Highway near Phillip Island, but it wasn’t until she fell in love with cheese-making that she was able to take advantage of it.
“To be truthful, it was the noisiest dairy farm that I’ve ever been on. They are usually such peaceful places, but when I first got here in 2006 they were doing road duplication and we were under the helicopter flight path for Bass Strait,” she said.
“But that has turned around to our benefit, because we front such a busy tourist route, the traffic can come right in.”
And come right in they do.
From a hobby that Kaye hoped would earn enough to replace her time on the dairy farm, Bassine Specialty Cheeses has grown into a small business success story that is value-adding to the local economy.
Milk produced by Kaye’s partner, second generation dairy farmer Glen Bisognin and his son Luke, is used to produce a variety of soft chesses, creams and even their own brand of milk.
Much of their trade is based around the tourist traffic passing through the tiny town of Bass.
With a herd size of only 150 cows – down by 50 because of last season’s dry conditions – the farm is smaller than the average dairy business.
But what they lack in quantity of milk, they make up for in quality.
The 57-year-old believes their Friesian herd produces milk that is intrinsic to the cheese making process.
“It’s extremely important, the milk is make-or-break from a cheese quality point of view,” she said.
“Luke is doing a really good job producing high quality milk and that quality really comes through in the cheese.
“We also bottle some of our own milk here and once people have tasted it, they are hooked.
“We handle the milk as gently as possible. We only pasteurise, we don’t homogenise, which leaves an old fashioned type of milk where the cream rises to the top.”
Kaye’s passion for cheese started when she was gifted a cheese-making course in 2002.
Starting as a hobby to be shared with family and friends, it morphed into the current thriving business about five years ago.
While Bassine Specialty Cheese is now making money and is an important part of the farm finances, it’s the love of cheese that drives the business, rather than a desire for profits.
“There’s a lot of art to it and there’s a lot of science behind it as well,” Kaye said.
“It’s also a very nurturing job. You are looking after what the cheese-makers call their little babies.
“We look after them and we nurture them along, which is what is so rewarding about it.
“The more love and attention you give the cheese, the better the outcome.”
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Kaye’s cheese adds dairy value