Our life in the coun­try

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS BAR­BARA SWEENEY PHOTOGRAPHY FELIX FOR­EST

The Mcna­ma­ras have moved from city cor­po­rate life to run­ning a lead­ing sheep’s milk dairy.

THE JOUR­NEY OF CRES­SIDA AND MICHAEL MCNA­MARA HAS LED FROM THE COR­PO­RATE WORLD TO A HOBBY FARM, AND FI­NALLY TO ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S BEST SHEEP DAIRIES.

For Michael and Cres­sida Mcna­mara, one of life’s small plea­sures is watch­ing the fog roll in each day. The soft white pil­lows that set­tle through the tall trees and over the creek are one of the con­stants of Pec­ora Dairy. Their 53-hectare prop­erty lies on the high­est point of the Illawarra es­carp­ment at Robert­son, 140 kilo­me­tres south-west of Syd­ney “The mi­cro-cli­mate here is quite unique,” Michael says. “The ef­fect of warm air meet­ing cold at this altitude is pow­er­ful and dra­matic.” The rea­son that Michael and Cres­sida de­rive so much plea­sure from bad weather is that the rain­fall, which av­er­ages 2000mm a year and is one of the high­est in NSW, means abun­dant pas­ture. And for a sheep’s milk dairy that’s gold. “You can’t make a good wine with bad grapes,” Cres­sida says. “So our fo­cus goes into pro­duc­ing the best milk for our cheese, and that means an­i­mal health, soil health and pas­ture health.” The Mcna­ma­ras came to dairy­ing af­ter fall­ing in love with the sheep they’d bought to keep the grass down on their first farm. They wanted their chil­dren Hugo, now 11, and Darcy, eight, to have a coun­try child­hood and had moved from Syd­ney in 2001 to a tiny hobby farm in Pic­ton, an hour south of the city. They threw them­selves into the ex­pe­ri­ence, keep­ing chick­ens, ducks and goats. But it was the sheep that stole their hearts and nudged them in a new di­rec­tion. Cres­sida and Michael, who moved to the Robert­son prop­erty in 2008, spent more than seven years study­ing cheese­mak­ing and are now ranked among the best mak­ers in the coun­try, with a range of Euro­pean-style cheeses that not only ap­pears in restau­rants and at Syd­ney farm­ers’ mar­kets, but also on the win­ner’s podium at com­pe­ti­tions such as the Syd­ney Royal Cheese and Dairy Show.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP LEFT The Mcna­ma­ras wanted to give their boys a coun­try child­hood; lining up for evening milk­ing; Ham­burg chick­ens range about the yard; Darcy and Michael by the milk­ing stand that can milk 12 ewes in about seven min­utes; rounds of mezza, a semi-hard Basque-style cheese; the tree­house was built as soon as the fam­ily moved to the prop­erty; some of the flock of East Friesians. FAC­ING PAGE The fam­ily at Kan­ga­roo Creek, which runs through rem­nant rain­for­est on the prop­erty.

Cres­sida and Michael with sons Hugo, 11, and eight-year-old Darcy by a gi­ant brown bar­rel (Eu­ca­lyp­tus fasti­gata).

For more in­for­ma­tion on Pec­ora Dairy, tele­phone (02) 4885 2606 or visit pec­o­radairy.com.au

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