Sandy and Julie Cameron, founders and cheesemakers, Meredith Dairy
Enjoy the challenge, trust in science and keep following the vision ...
Whenever we are tasked with assembling a cheese board, a jar of Meredith Dairy’s marinated goats cheese is an essential inclusion. The nationally-renowned dairy farm has been elevating snack platters since its inception in 1991, which means this year marks three decades of outstanding work for the Victorian-based operation. We took the opportunity to chat to Meredith Dairy founders Sandy and Julie Cameron about the early days of their business, making a positive impact on the environment and the lessons they’ve learned as Meredith Dairy became a household name.
Meredith Dairy was born out of some unexpected circumstances. To start, could you briefly fill us in on how the brand came to be?
In 1991 farming in Australia was faced with enormous challenges due to the collapse of the wool industry. As sheep farmers, we determined that the future was bleak unless we could find a way to add value to our farm produce. A chance meeting with a cheesemaker – who told us that the best cheese in the world was made from sheep milk – convinced us to milk sheep.
Transitioning from wool farming to cheesemaking must have been a challenge to say the least. What were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome at the start of the pivot process?
As a nurse and a vet we were more familiar with disease-causing bacteria, so to change focus and concentrate on fermenting milk for cheese and yoghurts was hard to get the hang of. We had to learn the best growing conditions for cheese cultures and at the same time produce a safe product.
In the early days, what was the first product in the Meredith Dairy range that you mastered?
A blue cheese – think French roquefort blue cheese – was our focus and aim. We got very close!
What would you say makes the biggest impact on the quality of Meredith Dairy’s products?
The raw milk comes from our farm and is made into cheese within hours, sometimes minutes. Our greatest focus is on milk quality.
What was the turning point for Meredith Dairy – the moment where you noticed more and more locals recognising your product for its quality?
When we started seeing Meredith Cheese on menus, people writing recipes using the cheese and fan mail began to arrive.
Sustainability is a major focus for Meredith Dairy – can you tell us about the technology, ethical farming practices and approach to environmental management that help make Meredith Dairy a sustainable success?
Our vision for Meredith Dairy is to ‘Produce Food Sustainably’. We are on a journey. With everything we do, we stop and decide if it contributes to our vision. We are the caretakers of a large farm, which includes managing significant native ecosystems. Our focus is to farm in a way that is productive but also protects the environment. To do this, we have initiatives that reduce our impact on our warming climate. We use extensive solar and renewable energy, recycling, regenerative cropping and ecosystem maintenance, including wetland and waterway protection. We also have family-friendly initiatives for our staff and training for our future farmers, however there is always more we can do on this journey.
Are there any areas of growth and positive change that you’d like to see the dairy farming industry explore more in the coming years?
Let’s promote the benefits of methane reduction in our livestock. There are enormous possibilities to reduce methane production from animals by as much as 80-to-90 percent. Agriculture has the possibility to lead action on climate change. Let’s face it, agriculture has the most to lose with a warming climate.
Thirty years of operation is a huge milestone! What would you say has been your greatest achievement over your three decades?
We have developed systems that are not just profitable, but have positive impacts on the environment, animal welfare and people. It gives us enormous pleasure to see our staff develop and become masters of their craft, whether that be farming or cheesemaking. Goat cheese is now commonplace, which was not the case 30 years ago. Smashed avocado topped with marinated goat cheese is a staple – I think we may have played a part in this.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the past three decades?
Enjoy the challenge, trust in science and keep following the vision.
We’re curious to know – what’s your favourite way of enjoying your goats cheese?
A slice of sourdough topped with goat cheese, tomato and fresh basil.
It would be remiss of us not to ask – are there any exciting new products on the horizon for Meredith Dairy?
We’re thinking of innovative, recyclable packaging as well as yoghurts and healthy drinks.
Keep your eyes peeled for Meredith Dairy products in your local grocer or deli, or click here to have a browse of Meredith Dairy’s acclaimed range online.