The idea of a cheesery was born from an article read in a major Weekly Agricultural magazine. It dealt with a couple in the Cape who managed a small Goat’s Cheese business.
Norman and Rina felt it would be something that they too could do. In less than a fortnight someone in a neighbouring town offered a short course on Dairy Goat Animal Husbandry and ‘How to make Feta’. Norman attended this and soon received a Buck as a gift from the same gentleman!
Now they had to find a few does. Norman approached the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in Irene for assistance and discovered they had four does for sale.
Thus, they started. Rina attended a Cheese Course offered by ARC and they managed to make a few products and sold these at a local monthly craft market. After the first two markets, the goats were dry and they had to wait for the next kidding season.
The first cheese was made in five-litre batches in a stainless-steel bucket resting on a small tripod in an enamel saucepan – an improvised double-boiler
The four does reproduced and they ended up with seven does, these became thirteen then twenty-six. Equipment progressed to a 15-litre container in a dustbin fitted with an urn-element and thermostat – another improvised double boiler. Eventually, there were three dustbins and no less than twelve containers! Time for a proper Cheese Vat!
Much of the cheese-making took place after hours when Rina came home from the office. Norman’s cheese-making skills were honed and as the herd grew he had to make cheese during the day.
Once the herd reached sixty-five Rina left the corporate world and they had to expand rapidly. By this time, they sold at a number of farmer’s / food/ craft markets and several speciality stores and food distributors.
The product range expanded as an ever-restless Rina experimented and made different cheeses. Norman was increasingly tied up with the farm and animals and in 2013 they welcomed Bongi Nondzama, a young cheese-maker from the Western Cape into the cheesery.
He had good experience with Cow’s milk cheese and has learnt how to make both Goat’s and Sheep’s Milk cheeses as also a much wider range.
A chance visit to the farm from Kobus Mulder of AgriExpo in 2004 led to their first entries into the S A Dairy Championship arranged by that organisation. They were not unhappy with two second-places from the milk of their seven goats.
Since then they have managed Sixty-Eight SA Champion Cheeses and Twenty-four Medals at the World Cheese Awards.
The Belchers enjoy pitting their efforts against the best in the Country and the World in order to benchmark their cheese and constantly improve what they produce.
They live by a few simple rules – Cash is King – so all operations are run that way and they have a BHAG approach – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals.