wheels of gold
FOUR GENERATIONS OF THIS CHEESEMAKING FAMILY LIVE AND WORK TOGETHER ON THEIR FLEURIEU PENINSULA DAIRY FARM.
It’s early morning milking time and, like clockwork, a herd of sweet-faced Jersey cows makes a leisurely conga line across the clover pastures of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula towards the dairy on the hill. The cows bear the names of celebrity cooks, such as Nigella and Poh, or gemstones, such as Emerald and Opal, and produce milk rich in butterfat that is made into the award-winning handmade cheese and dairy products of the Alexandrina Cheese Company. The Alexandrina Cheese Company at Mount Jagged, 72 kilometres south of Adelaide, is very much a family affair, according to Rebekah Mccaul. Rebekah, 37, who is the fourth generation of the cheesemaking Mccauls, grew up on the 111-hectare farm that she describes as an example of a paddock-to-plate enterprise. Rebekah’s parents, Dan and Krystyna Mccaul, started making a hard cheddar cheese on the farm in 2001 when dairy deregulation caused milk prices to plummet. “We were sending a lot of butterfat out the gate and not being paid very much for it, so mum and dad went to Queensland to do a cheesemaking course,” says Rebekah. “On family holidays in Victoria and Tasmania we always went to visit cheesemakers and they could see that making cheese was going to yield more return than milk.” Krystyna’s parents had been dairying on the farm since the early 1970s, and Dan’s family had also been making cheese since 1902. “Dad’s father, Kevin, made a hard-style cheese like his grandfather Jeremiah before him — and we make it exactly the same today. Kevin was superintendent of six cheese factories and had written a lot about cheese. He and my mother’s father, George Manowski, were a great support when we began the cheesemaking here.” Following that first cheddar, they now make a range of hard cheeses — “We are the only edam maker on the mainland” — and soft cheese such as feta and ricotta, along with pure Jersey cream, crème fraîche, pot-set yoghurts and full cream and skim milk. The purpose-built cheesery has a retail section open daily for cheese tastings and sales. Dan is head cheesemaker, while Rebekah shares the marketing with her mother; brothers Geoff and Steve are involved, too. “The family members have different roles, but we overlap so it’s not hard to replace one of the members.” Rebekah lives on the farm with her husband Mark Przibilla, who oversees the business’s development, and their two boys, Jozef, five, and Patryk, two. “Mum’s mother still lives here, so now four generations are here,” she says. “I love having my own children grow up in the same environment that I did.” The Mccauls run a small and sustainable herd of 70 cows. “We like the fact that our cows have new grass to graze on and are not stressed. A small herd is fantastic for cow health and for farm health. Less is more, and we focus on quality. The cheese we make is the best quality.” Alexandrina Cheese Company, Sneyd Road, Mount Jagged, SA. (08) 8554 9666; alexandrinacheese.com.au