There has been plenty of talk over the last few years about “sea-changers” and “tree-changers” and the impact of their change from city life to a rural idyll on both themselves and the small communities they move to. I know that, like many others, when we made our move to the hills from the city we were looking for some more space, cooler summers and a slight shift in our lifestyle. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing of course – we didn’t fully take school sport commitments into account when we were picturing our relaxing, rural weekends and I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about pumps, irrigation and fencing – but it hasn’t been a huge adjustment for us and most of our daily habits and expectations remain largely unchanged. For some, however, rural relocation can mean the most remarkable gear-changing in their lives and send them down roads hither-to undreamt of.
I doubt that Sheree Sullivan’s parents, Trevor and Estelle Dunford, could foresee just quite how the life of their family was going to look 15 years down the track, when they made the move from the outer-Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth, in 1995, to an acreage in the small hills town of Lobethal and decided to get a few goats. The few turned into forty, milking became their new hobby and it wasn’t long before cheesemaking was in their sights and Udder Delights was born.
Trevor and Estelle went on to develop a factory in Lobethal, at the old woollen mills and, in 1999 at the ripe old age of 21, Sheree took on marketing their product, travelling to gourmet shops, doing demonstrations and offering tastings. Sheree also went on to teach herself cheesemaking and, with the assistance of business mentors and coaches, learned as much as she could about business management. Now she and her husband Saul (who has himself become a cheesemaker) are partners with her parents in the ever-expanding factory. Showing all of the energy and enthusiasm that has become so very familiar to me as the mark of our local producers, Sheree directed her intensity into building a manufacturing base and a brand for their excellent artisan cheeses while Saul has worked on increasing the production in the factory. Their goats are long gone now, and all the milk is sourced from a herd of Saanen goats at Middleton.
In 2006, Sheree and Saul threw caution to the winds, sold everything they owned and opened up the Udder Delights Cheese Cellar in Hahndorf and have since gone on to win the 2010 Food SA Growing Small Business award at the Premiers Food Awards. And growing is certainly what Udder Delights continues to do at a startling rate. This small business now employs 20 people in the factory and the store. Sheree, who also has 2 small children and appears to have more hours in her day than I do, is constantly working at the marketing side of the business, oversees the distribution and retailing aspects, runs enormously popular cheesemaking classes which book out months ahead and has developed a fantastic Cheese and Wine Trail, in conjunction with some of the Adelaide Hills wineries. The trail involves purchasing a basket of Udder Delights delicious cheeses and following the trail, on a map provided, to selected wineries for a three course progressive picnic with pre-matched wines.
In the last few weeks, Udder Delights has released the new “Divine Dairy” range of certified organic, biodynamic soft cheeses, designed to appeal to slightly more sophisticated tastes. Rich, creamy and with more developed flavours, Sheree sees this as where the collective Australian palate seems to be heading and has plans for even more products to come.
As they continue to expand the production capabilities of the factory, Sheree’s plans continue to grow, too. Udder Delights cheeses are available all around Australia now and in independent supermarkets, but Sheree’s goal is for Udder Delights to be the largest privately owned artisan cheese makers in Australia.
I don’t, for a minute, doubt that she’ll do it![mc4wp_form id="16750"]