It was a perfectly still and sunny day when we visited the little piece of paradise that is the Holy Cow farm. With the outer reaches of the Otago harbour as a backdrop the farm embodies all that is wholesome, traditional and good about the world. The grape festooned, open air barn has an individual, named stall for each cow. We were just disappointed that we had missed milking time and been denied watching the cows trot into the byre to the strains of opera playing.
Merrall and Alex MacNeille moved to Reynoldstown from Vermont, USA in 2001. They were not new to diary farming. Merrall bought his first cow at the tender age of 6 and his grandfather had a herd of Guernsey cows and a glass bottle diary back in the 1920’s. Merrall and Alex met when they were both working on a small scale diary farm in the 1970’s. Alex and Merrall milk Jersey cows, their milk has a high fat content and the milk has minimal processing. It is pasteurized, but not homogenized, and the herd is predominantly A2, meaning the milk is more easily digestible for some people. . These are much adored animals that get to lead a pretty sweet life.
Holy Cow has gone through enormous development in the past 14 months. They have gone from selling, raw untreated milk at the farm gate to gaining MPI approval with an onsite pasteurising unit and diary to selling at the farmers market as well as several other outlets and cafes. This transition was expensive, stressful and difficult but with a whole heap of community support, tons of innovative ingenuity and hard work they are now in the final stages of tweaking the operation. Merrall and Alex are traditionalists and have been extremely fortunate to have the help of Tess Trotter and Sam McMullan who have volunteered for Holy Cow for several years. Tess deals with sales, publicity, MPI forms and audits and Sam, as an electrical engineer and junior dairy farmer can milk the cows right through to designing and wiring pasteurisers, refrigerators and everything in between!
What probably impressed us most was the sheer steadfastness, ingenuity and talent of this team that has resulted in the large scale additions to the barn being done in an affordable, up-cycling kind of way right through to a hugely successful fundraising effort and social media presence. There seems nothing that these good folks can’t do.
Holy Cow is a wonderful addition to the market. They bring their milk, cream, lassi, ghee and butter to the market in a refrigerated unit. Their customer base has grown steadily. Customers swop out clean, empty bottles for fresh refills.