Our life in the country
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