The Perfect Cheese Board

SkillsOne heads to Ashgrove Cheese in Northern Tasmania to hear about a family-run cheese making business. We chat to Richard Bennett about how his family started in cheese making, how they became a multi-award winning business and why they stick to making cheese by hand.

He shares what makes great cheese - and shows us some very colourful cows!

Ashgrove Cheese is owned and operated by the Bennett family on their dairy farm located in Elizabeth Town in central Northern Tasmania.

The dairy farm has been operational for five generations. In 1993 the families established the cheese factory to value add to the milk being produced on the farm.

Richard partly fell into cheese-making (because of family) and partly was passionate about cheese making. He did food technology course specialising in dairy – at a college which was then linked to Melbourne University. He enjoyed the course as he created lots of different dairy products beyond cheese.

Making cheese by hand, produces a better cheese, a more traditional style of cheese, you have more control over it automation loses this, Richard shares. Ashgrove started out making English style cheeses – when building the business, they wanted to make a speciality cheese that was different because of growing market competition.

Today the farming operation has expanded to milk over 900 Friesian dairy cows on two dairy farms supplying milk to both Ashgrove Cheese and Fonterra – they produce 2 million litres of milk per year.

Ashgrove Cheese is the only cheese producer in Australia specialising in the production of English county styles of cheese such as Lancashire, Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Red Leicester and traditional style Cheddar. Manager Jane Bennett spent two years making Farmhouse Cheese in England prior to the establishment of Ashgrove.

Today, Jane is assisted in the cheese making by her brother Richard Bennett and a team of dedicated staff. Both Jane and Richard studied Dairy Technology for two years in Victoria and have extensive experience cheese making overseas.

The cheese is all produced by hand using traditional recipes and techniques. These aspects accompanied by the family sourcing milk only from their own dairy herds ensures individual flavours and textures are achieved in every variety of cheese.

VJ Matthew Jenkin