FROMAGE FRA­TER­NITY

French am­bas­sador at­tends Eketa¯ huna Cheese Fes­ti­val

Bush Telegraph - - Front Page - By STEVE CARLE´

Florence Jean­blanc-Risler, Am­bas­sador of France to New Zealand, was present at the in­au­gu­ral Eketa¯ huna Cheese Fes­ti­val or­gan­ised by lo­cal cheese­maker Biddy FraserDavies of Cwmg­lyn Farm­house Cheese.

In a list of who’s who, two speak­ers came from Eng­land, Dr Paul Neaves and Jill Palmer, Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Damian O’Con­nor was a guest speaker. Also at­tend­ing were Dame An­nette King, for­mer deputy Leader of the Op­po­si­tion, Labour MP Kieren McAnulty and Tararua District mayor Tracey Col­lis.

The fes­ti­val was all about ar­ti­san cheese­mak­ers net­work­ing with each other. The ic­ing on the cake though, was an an­nounce­ment made by Damian O’Con­nor launch­ing a new tem­plate to en­able an eas­ier and cheaper way to cer­tify cheese. The min­is­ter Biddy pre­sented her with a 76th birth­day present on stage.

Six­teen years ago Biddy Fraser-Davies found com­pli­ance was nearly im­pos­si­ble for small cheese­mak­ers. She led the charge tak­ing on the govern­ment.

“She was writ­ing to Par­lia­ment so of­ten and at­tend­ing so many se­lect com­mit­tees, she could have been an MP her­self,” said Damian O’Con­nor.

“In a coun­try that has the big­gest dairy ex­porter in the world, the com­pli­ance cost for small cheese­mak­ers was dis­missed. Biddy’s per­sis­tence paid off. Politi­cians [even­tu­ally] con­vinced of­fi­cials there could be a bet­ter way.”

He an­nounced a new tem­plate for small cheese pro­duc­ers, not only for Eketa¯ huna but across New Zealand.

“That will lower the cost to en­sure in­no­va­tion, aware­ness and prove­nance — all those things that go with pro­duc­ing fine lo­cal food not only for lo­cals but for vis­i­tors to our coun­try to en­joy,” he said.

Denise Clifton from Eketa¯ huna has been work­ing for Biddy for nine years and has shifted from pro­duc­ing ther­moset cheese to go­ing purely into raw milk and the bu­reau­cratic night­mare she has had on the way. She is one of only three raw cheese­mak­ers in New Zealand.

“Af­ter 16 years hard work she now has had her val­i­da­tion ap­proved.

“There’s been a lot of net­work­ing go­ing on be­tween Biddy and Cal­lum Hodgson, chief cheese­mon­ger from Sa­bato in Auck­land. They have both been work­ing to­gether over the past six months, net­work­ing with all the ar­ti­san cheese­mak­ers from all over New Zealand to get them here. It’s taken a year from con­cep­tion. Cheese­mak­ers have come on board to sup­port com­ing to Eketa¯ huna, from Tas­ma­nia [Bruny Is­land Cheese], Auck­land, down to Twizel in the deep south.”

Eketa¯ huna has a strong his­tory of cheese­mak­ing, be­ing one of the first re­gions in New Zealand to start mak­ing and ex­port­ing cheese and but­ter. There were many com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing New­man, Ron­gokokako, Nireaha, Mau­riceville, Ha­mua, Hukanui, Ron­go­mai — there’s quite a few,” she said.

Eke­tahuna Com­mu­nity Board chair Char­lie Death, a sixth gen­er­a­tion farmer from Nireaha, said Eketa¯ huna has a his­tory of bring­ing things to­gether and mak­ing them work.

Dr Paul Neaves, worl­drecog­nised mi­cro-bi­ol­o­gist in raw cheese­mak­ing from Eng­land, brought HACCP (hazard and crit­i­cal con­tact points) ex­pert Jill Palmer with him from Eng­land. It was glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant, an op­por­tu­nity to talk to ar­ti­san cheese­mak­ers. He is the con­venor of the UK Spe­cial­ist Cheese­mak­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and is on their tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee rep­re­sent­ing 300 small farms. Biddy is a mem­ber of the as­so­ci­a­tion.

Jill Palmer said peo­ple are en­thu­si­as­tic about food, prove­nance and the story be­hind it.

“The level of buzz in the room bodes well for the fu­ture,” she said.

French Am­bas­sador and cheese­mon­ger Florence Jean­blanc-Risler said ar­ti­san cheese has a huge fu­ture not only in New Zealand but world­wide.

“I’m hon­oured to be here. Biddy is a won­der­ful wo­man and a huge achiever,” she said.

“This is just won­der­ful to see,” said Labour MP Kieran McAnulty.

“I’m a Master­ton boy from an Eketa¯ huna fam­ily on both sides. To be able to bring the min­is­ter along and cel­e­brate what is a won­der­ful event in a town that has a proud his­tory not only in cheese­mak­ing but in every­thing else, to have the mayor with us and the French Am­bas­sador and for Damian to make the an­nounce­ment af­ter 16 years of lob­by­ing, it’s great news for the in­dus­try.

“Cheese­mak­ers can get on with mak­ing won­der­ful tast­ing and cer­ti­fied cheese,” said Sally John­ston, man­ager for Food & Bev­er­age at New Zealand Food Safety, launched two weeks ago.

Now cheese­mak­ers can go to MPI for a one-stop shop or can go on­line “and they can get on with mak­ing won­der­ful tast­ing and cer­ti­fied cheese,” said Sally John­ston, man­ager for Food & Bev­er­age at New Zealand Food Safety

From left: Biddy Fraser-Davies, Florence Jean­blanc-Risler, Am­bas­sador of France to New Zealand, MP Kieran McAnulty, Dame An­nette King, Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Damian O’Con­nor, Gill Whalley (Mount El­iza Cheese which went to a Se­lect Com­mit­tee hear­ing with Biddy), and Tararua mayor Tracey Col­lis.

Shar­ing their pas­sion — ar­ti­san cheese­mak­ers from New Zealand.

Jill Palmer with Dr Paul Neaves from Eng­land.

Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Damian O’Con­nor presents Biddy FraserDavies with a birth­day present for her 76th birth­day.

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