The talk at our September meeting was given by experienced dairy farmer Jason Salisbury about his home-produced Suffolk cheeses.
Jason began by telling us his background. His father’s job meant the family moving house every 6 months, so because of his constantly disrupted education Jason left school at 16 with no qualifications.
He worked firstly in Shropshire on a Co-Op dairy farm. He attended Agricultural College, travelling to the USA, studying cows, including genetics. Next he worked on a Leicestershire farm learning how to show and breed cattle.
He moved to Cambridge University Farm, where veterinary students came to learn his skills. He married one of them, Katharine, who became a vet in Stowmarket. Then he joined an artificial insemination company working all over East Anglia.
The travelling became too much, particularly as they now had a baby daughter. His next job was stockman for the dairy farm at Shrubland Hall. His son James was born, but then Jason faced redundancy, so money was tight. Driven by his passion for dairying, he approached Lord Saumarez of Shrubland Hall asking to rent the old dairy buildings plus 40 acres of grazing land. He got a bank loan and in autumn 2004 he put his plans into action.
Initially the project had teething troubles. The new equipment didn’t work properly, and he couldn’t produce any cheese! They were hard up and lived on stock-feed potatoes, carrots, and waste milk.
To improve flavour, they experimented by sprinkling their cheese with black pepper, herbs and garlic. They took this tastier cheese to Woodbridge Farmers’ Market where it sold out. They were in business!
Katharine gave up her job, joining Jason as the primary cheese-maker. Jason kept to the dairying side, breeding the cows and milking them twice daily, producing high-quality creamy milk.
In 2008 they bought Whitegate Farm at Creeting St Mary, building brand new premises for their prize Guernsey herd. Nothing is wasted on the farm – surplus milk goes to an ice-cream maker and Jason keeps rare breed pigs, which live off the skimmed milk waste. Male calves are reared on for 6 months for beef, whilst females are the new milk producers, and all profits are ploughed back into the business. They now supply all East Anglia and the Channel Islands with their cheeses.
The three cheeses they produce are Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue and Suffolk Brie. Capel Ladies tried each one, washed down with a glass of something, and we can honestly say they are ALL delicious! I think the Suffolk Blue won the vote, but it was a close-run thing! Jason was an excellent speaker and kept us amused with his anecdotes! It was a very convivial evening!
(Further information on website: www.suffolkcheese.co.uk )
If you would like to sample one of our “In” Meetings, why not come along at 7.45pm on the 1st Thursday in the month, to Capel Library?
Coming soon we have an Indian cookery demonstration, a talk about Uganda and a Christmas shopping trip to Cambridge.