FOLLOWING a dream may be the ambition of many, but for Deb Kiem and Pip Archer, theirs has become a business that will mature with age.
Cheese making for one was a past occupation while for the other, a dream come true.
As for their business, like the logo on the pack suggests, it’s uniqueness will catch on and advance as word of a quality product passes along.
Handmade in Mendooran, the official launch of the ladies’ Blue Sky Cheese was just a fortnight ago.
“We were overwhelmed by the number of people who attended,” Deb said.
More than 150 people from as far away as Sydney attended the function at Black Gate Distillery, another thriving Mendooran business.
“Among the crowd of well-wishers were businesses who have promised to stock the range and promote them through their outlets.
At this stage two cheeses are being manufactured – Castlereagh Camembert and Peppertree Feta.
For Blue Sky Cheese, several stars lined up.
The beginning point, according to cheesemaker, Deb, was Mendooran Show.
Both ladies run mixed farming enterprises with their husbands, Deb and Glen are located just over the Castlereagh River from Mendooran at Mt Abundance, which was the local post office and a coach staging stop.
Pip and her husband, Simon farm at Moronga, Merrygoen.
Deb says she’s only been in Mendooran for 11 years, but Pip is a long-term member of the district and has led an active role in many organisations in town and has recently been the driving force instigating a joint showgirl competition with neighbouring towns of Baradine and Binnaway, and a director of Agricultural Societies Council (ASC).
We're just taking baby steps at this time, but we've got this huge vision
The ladies met through their involvement with Mendooran show. Pip was show secretary and Deb is still the current poultry steward.
In between shows and other functions that are held at the showground the ladies would discuss the future, especially this year with the prolonged dry from summer through autumn and winter and continuing through spring, and now looking at another possibly long dry summer.
“We had been talking for years about cheese making,” Deb said
“We both love cheese and this year the drought has pushed us into action to form an off-farm business.
Discussions continued each time the ladies got together and Deb mentioned she was a cheesemaker some years ago.
“So Pip and I were talking more and more and we decided that now is the time for making cheese together,” Deb said.
The business came about because of the Mendooran showground kitchen, which was built with funding gained from the Cobbora Coal Transition Fund and came with a function centre and bar area and has passed all the health inspections. Pip and Deb can be found there on Thursdays and Fridays creating their artisan products.
Deb’s working career centres around school teaching, but in the early 2000s when Kate Woodward created Hunter Belle cheeses at Muswellbrook, she became Deb’s mentor.
“I grew up in Coonabarabran and we left the Muswellbrook mines after finding Mt Abundance and I am back pre-schooling teaching grandchildren of people I went to school with,” Deb said.
To make cheese the ladies needed fresh, single-sourced cow’s milk and found it at Dubbo’s Little Big Dairy.
At present they turn 60 litres of milk into six kilograms of cheese weekly sourcing everything locally.
“Local artist, Amy Naef painted a red-tailed black cockatoo which we use as our logo and local graphic artist, Natahsa Tobin designed our labels which are printed in Orange.
“We’re just taking baby steps at this time, but we’ve got this huge vision.
“We want to grow our business organically and to promote Mendooran in the Central West and play our part in promoting small vibrant townships alive with industry.
“Our cheeses are like the black cockatoo at the moment, a little bit illusive, but we’re sure that will change with time.”
The Castlereagh Camembert and Peppertree Feta are named after the river and the many shading peppercorn trees on Mendooran showground.The town is the oldest on the Castlereagh River.
Blue Sky Cheese can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook.