“It’s more fun selling cheese than shearing sheep.” Bob Berry, founder of Oamaru-based Whitestone Cheese has no regrets about his move from one side of the farm fence to the other.
Starting out as a stock agent and auctioneer, he went into farming, then diversified as the rural downturn in the late 1980s took hold. “The bottom fell out of farming, so I got into cheese as a diversification,” he says. “The wine industry was just starting to take off and I thought the specialist cheese market would go with it – and there weren’t many specialist cheeses around.”
From that small beginning in 1987, the Berry family now run an enterprise that employs over 50 people. Nephew Richard fronts the stall at the Otago Farmers Market.
Whitestone has developed a range of over 20 different varieties, using the skills of specialist cheese makers, who have been trained in the traditional art of specialist cheese making.
Their ability is reflected in the New Zealand Cheese Awards. Most cheeses hold a medal and trophies, all awarded by their peers in the dairy and fine foods industries.
“The key to our success was developing our own regional styles,” says Bob Berry.
“It’s our natural environment that’s our greatest asset. Our traditional cheese making techniques capture the essence of our region where the quality of our milk is reflected in the finished product.”
It’s in the air, the water, the pastures and the ancient limestone that inspired the name Whitestone. Combine this with free range farming principles and the result is a unique range of cheeses.
The making of the cheese is also stringently monitored for compliance criteria. No artificial additives are used, a fully natural process.