Vertical Integration at Wangapeka Cheese
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Vertical Integration at Wangapeka Cheese

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Wangapeka Cheese

Daryl and Karen Trafford, have moved from dairying, to sheep and beef farming, and back to dairying during their farming career. They have now created an award-winning vertically integrated artisan dairy business, based out of their Tadmor Valley Farm, located an hour from Nelson.

Karen has always been interested in healthy nutrition and, while they were dry stock farming, she completed a cheese-making course, got a milking cow, and discussed with Daryl the possibility of making cheese fulltime. Karen now runs the newly built on-farm factory, where milk is pumped directly from the cowshed. Fresh milk, a range of cheeses and yoghurts are produced. Also involved are; head cheese maker Silvia Fredi (from Italy), factory and distribution manager Debbie, and Karen’s daughter Rennae, who looks after marketing and compliance.

The couple is driven to create a healthy product for consumers. Daryl focuses on running the farm on organic and biological lines, aiming to be as sustainable as possible, with particular attention paid to soil health and management. The herd is milked once a day and is largely pasture fed. They work with a downsized herd compared to previous operations. Daryl says he is more than happy with the decision. “We’re taking our product from pasture right through to plate. It’s great to be in charge of the whole thing.”

Karen said when they started out she was directed by the district council to MPI, and then got help from a Christchurch consultant to help navigate the substantial compliances and regulations in order to produce foodstuffs for sale to the public.

The Traffords have created an outlet for their products, located on the busy Appleby highway just outside of Nelson. And in addition to sales from their shop, they supply a growing number of cafes, restaurants and supermarkets around New Zealand.

Karen identifies bureaucracy and growth as their biggest hurdles and has some advice for those thinking about creating a boutique business. “For someone starting out, I would really recommend that they look at their provenance, they have a story behind their business, they have a plan, and talk to others within the industry to help them gain the knowledge.” Karen would also like to think there was a real opportunity within New Zealand to create a boutique export co-operative model.

On March 1 2016, at the NZ Cheese Awards, Wangapeka Cheese won the Champion New Cheese award for their Matariki cheese, a gold medal for their Tui and a silver for their Urboc.

The Wangapeka Cheese story was first on air in episode 20 of Rural Delivery, first screened on Saturday 16 July 2016 and available to view on TVNZ on Demand until July 2017.

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Rural Delivery: www.ruraldelivery.net.nz

TVNZ on Demand: www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand

Do you have an experience of starting up a new venture? Who did you go to for advice and how did it help you? What are your thoughts on Karen’s idea about the creation of a high-end export co-operative? Share them with us below.