April 2017

Next meeting: Thursday May 11th at 2.00pm in Kirton and Falkenham Village Hall.
Discussion and voting on resolutions.
Followed by members reminiscences of their school-days (please come prepared).
Trading Stall: miscellaneous.

APRIL MEETING REPORT 2017
Did you know that there's no need to go to Cheddar, Cheshire or Wensleydale to sample British cheeses? In fact you can find an example practically on your doorstep at Whitegate Farm, Creeting St Mary, Suffolk. This is the home of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses and it was the farm's joint owner, Mr Jason Salisbury, who came to talk to us at our April meeting. He began by suggesting that a straightforward history of the business might be a bit boring so offered to tell us about his own personal involvement in it.

During his childhood his family seemed to be constantly on the move. By the age of sixteen he had changed location thirteen times. His father was a fireman and held a succession of jobs; his mother worked for the NHS. As a result of this footloose existence his education suffered and he left school without qualifications, He got a job on a Co-op farm milking three hundred and fifty cows twice a day. After this he worked for a farmer who bred Holstein cattle He became interested in breeding and learnt to artificially inseminate. In the Farmers Weekly magazine he saw an advert for a job as herdsman at Cambridge University, applied and was accepted. So he managed to get to Cambridge with no qualifications whatsoever. Quite an achievement! While there he spent some time teaching students and got on very well with a blue-eyed blond, but this pretty female was of the bovine variety. However by 1998 he was courting one of his own species and in 1999 he got married to Katherine, a qualified vet. As she wanted to live in Suffolk they moved, buying a house in Coddenham. Very soon Emily came along and eventually, tiring of his role as house husband, he went to the Shrubland Estate and applied for a job as herdsman with Lord De Saumarez, the owner at that time. James, their second child, put in an appearance, they sold their house and moved into rented accommodation on the estate. It therefore came as a shock when, sometime later, he was made redundant. However, it was this event that spurred him on to tackling the task of starting his own business.

He decided to buy a brown and white guernsey cow and use the milk to make a high-value product: namely cheese. His plan was to rent land and a dairy from Lord Saumarez and acquire more cows. Katherine pointed out the obvious: that they had no money. They went to the bank in Stowmarket and asked to borrow £75,000, expecting to be given around £35,000. In fact they were given the full amount they had asked for which left Jason wishing he had demanded more. Things were a bit difficult at the beginning but through selling their products at farmers markets and through various other outlets and working every hour that the Good Lord sends they had paid off the £75,000 by 2006. To supplement the takings Jason did some work for the media and actually became an advisor to the Archers radio programme. Katherine gave up her job as a vet and to this day it has been just the two of them putting in all the hard work.

In 2009 they renovated an old Georgian farmhouse, Whitegate Farm, at Creeting St Mary, and moved their thirty cows and a herd of pigs that they raise as a sideline onto the land. They have set up a VMS scheme which stands for Voluntary Milking Service in which, rather amazingly, the cows milk themselves. They make three types of cheese and, at Christmas, sell pork, beef and turkeys as well. If you want to know more about their business visit their website at www.suffolkcheese.co.uk or email them at enquiries@suffolkcheese.co.uk. If you would like to sample their wares you may be lucky enough to find them at Goslings Farm Shop.

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