Lord Haskins celebrates Cornish dairy success
The Government’s Rural Recovery Co-ordinator, Lord Haskins, celebrated the success of Cornwall’s dairy industry today (Feb 25) when he opened a half million pound cheese dairy built to meet growing demand from across the UK.
The 7,000 sq ft, purpose-built production dairy at Pengreep Farm will eventually allow the Lynher Dairies Cheese Company to more than double annual production to 300 tonnes of speciality hand-made cheese a year, including its famous Cornish Yarg, which is wrapped in nettles to give it a distinctive, delicate taste.
Huge national demand for Yarg – it was even served on Concorde’s first flight when it re-entered service last year – has outstripped supply by 25%, but the expansion at Pengreep will allow production of an extra 30 or 40 tonnes a year.
Two new cheeses – Tiskey Meadow and Cornish Garland – will also enter production, and two others are under development, all for the national market.
The investment means the Lynher Dairies Cheese Company, which is a co-operative between Ben and Catherine Mead at Pengreep Farm at Ponsanooth near Truro, and Michael and Margaret Horrell at Lynher Farm & Dairies in East Cornwall, will increase its demand for milk sourced local farms from 1.3 million litres to 2.5 million litres a year.
The company is also carrying out field trials on growing nettles in which to wrap its Yarg cheese, and hopes local farmers will switch to producing the three and a half tonnes of crop needed each year.
The project was one of the first to be approved through the agricultural fund under Cornwall’s £310 million Objective One European programme, which has contributed £155,000 to the costs, with a similar sum coming from the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs.
In addition, £100,000 has been advanced to support the development of the
business by Milk Link, the dairy co-operative, which supplies the milk used
by Lynher Dairies.
Lord Haskins, who was appointed the Government’s Rural Recovery Co-ordinator last August in the wake of the foot and mouth crisis, opened the new dairy this afternoon.
In the evening he will address the Cornwall Agricultural Council, and have a private breakfast with members of the farming community tomorrow morning.
Speaking at the opening, Lord Haskins said: “This is a classic example where enterprising farmers with skills can do things in the market place that they would not have thought about doing years ago. This is the future of farming and it’s very exciting. The Cornish brand, as a food brand, is the best in England without a doubt and this is a great way of exploiting it.
“I have always talked about the need for a culture of enterprise and not a culture of dependency and what we have seen today is in the true spirit of enterprise.”
Catherine Mead from Pengreep Farm said: “This really is a state-of-the-art facility built to the highest specifications in the expectation that hygiene demands will rise in the coming years. As a small producer that gives us a very strong advantage, particularly with some of our supermarket customers.”
The building is also environmentally friendly, and heats its own water by recycling energy from the chilling system. It has a natural reed bed filtration system for dirty water and a storm water pond for rainwater, all set within a 12-acre woodland planted under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
Catherine added: “It’s timber-clad to blend in with its surroundings, and we’ve already submitted it for various awards.”
The project won the support of the Objective One programme because of the impact it will have on the rural economy by creating around 10 new jobs and helping to secure jobs on neighbouring farms through nettle growing – worth around £10,000 a tonne – and milk production.
The Lynher Dairies Cheese Company sources all its milk through the farmer’s co-operative Milk Link, through which it pays a premium to local producers. Between them they are encouraging local farmers to produce milk specifically for cheese production, an area where Milk Link sees growth.
Catherine said: “Through Milk Link, we’re looking to buy milk from specific named farms and they will be encouraged to produce milk with higher protein for cheese purposes.
“That’s a big change in thinking because in the old days milk for cheese was about the lowest grade you could buy. We’re trying to move away from that in favour of milk by design to give us a better starting point. Further down the line I would like to give our buyers the opportunity to go on suppliers’ farms to see where the raw material is coming from.
“By strengthening the links in the supply chain there is greater traceability and more ownership of the product, both of which are increasingly important.”
Rex Ward, one of Milk Link's farmer directors, said: "A key demand of Lynher Dairies is having access to local Cornish milk producers who can reach very exacting quality demands, and provide reliable delivery. Within Milk Link we have been able to work with both milk producers and Lynher to support the development of a premium cheese. The initiative provides Lynher with the right product, and a premium business opportunity for Milk Link and its members. It's a great example of local businesses working in partnership."
The Lynher Dairies Cheese Company now employs around 30 people and has recently taken on six new staff as a result of its expansion, which is a six-year project costing almost £780,000. Phase one has cost more than £500,000 and further investment will follow in line with market demand, up to a maximum of 300 tonnes a year. The company currently produces 130 tonnes of cheese a year.
Roger Metcalf, dairy sector co-ordinator in the Objective One Agricultural Development Team, said: “This is a super project that will not only strengthen the position of Cornish dairy produce in the national market, but safeguard existing jobs on local farms and enhance incomes through milk price premiums and, we hope, nettle production.
“I’m delighted that Lord Haskins has agreed to open what we believe is an exemplar project not just for Cornwall, but for the rural economy in general.”
Lord Haskins’ visit
Lord Haskins will be at Pengreep Farm from 3.30pm to 4.45pm today, Monday, February 25, during which time there will be a press conference and the opportunity for individual interviews with the media.
In the evening (7.30pm to 9pm), Lord Haskins will address a full meeting of the Cornwall Agricultural Council at the Eden Project, followed by a question and answer session. The media are invited to attend.
A free photograph showing Lord Haskins at Pengreep Farm will be available from the Apex Photo Agency on 01392-824155; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lynher Dairies Cheese Company is the sole producer of Cornish Yarg, which now accounts for 25% of all regional handmade cheese sales at Tesco. The cheese is naturally mould ripened and the nettles provide a protective coat that attracts the mould and allows the cheese to mature, which takes about five weeks. Yarg is best eaten between six and nine weeks old.
All of the Lynher Dairies Cheese Company’s cheeses are pasteurised, suitable for vegetarians and contain no genetically modified ingredients.
| Jason Clark
Objective One Partnership Office
Truro TR1 2UD