South Caernarfon Creameries, supporting Welsh farmers for more than 70 years

PUBLISHED: 13:11 08 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013

A selection of cheeses from South Caernarfon Creameries

A selection of cheeses from South Caernarfon Creameries

South Caernarfon Creameries have been supporting Welsh farmers for more than 70 years<br/>WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Farmer John Roberts had big ambitions. His dream was to help farmers on the Llyn Peninsula get a fair price for their milk. In 1938 he did it and with the help of other farmers he raised the money to build a creamery near Chwilog.

Until this point it had been difficult, because of a poor road network, to get buyers to take milk from this remote area. John, with the help of a group of farmers, raised the money to build a milk processing facility. He bought in milk from the other producers and delivered it from the one site.

His hard work setting up South Caernarfon Creameries created a groundbreaking co-operative. But John probably didnt realise he was creating a legacy that would still be going more than 70 years later.
Alan Jones, managing director, said: What John Roberts did was remarkable and very forward thinking. He worked with a group of farmers who decided they wanted to find a way of adding value to their milk.

The object of the co-operative remains as it was back then. Our sole purpose today is to continue what John set out to do. The only difference is that we now do it on a much larger scale.

In Johns day the milk was collected and carried in churns from a small number of farms, all located on or around the Llyn Peninsula. Now South Caernarfon Creameries is the leading farmer-owned dairy co-operative in Wales and the second oldest in the UK. It has more than 150 members, all of whom are shareholders in the business. Their cows produce more than 100 million litres of milk every year and around 8,000 tonnes of cheese. The milk is collected in tankers every day.

Butter, cream and butter milk are also produced at the creamery for shops large and small and within the co-operative there are herds which are dedicated solely to certain types of milk, including organic and Jersey milk.

The creamery uses traditional techniques such as hand salting the cheese on open tables. Many types of cheese are made at the creamery including Caws Llyn, a mature white cheddar; Wales best known territorial cheese Caerphilly and Old Shire, a vintage special reserve which has a maturing process of up to 18 months.

And many of the creamerys cheeses have won awards, including numerous accolades at the True Taste of Wales Awards, British Cheese Awards, Royal Welsh Show and the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich. The cheeses are also sent all over the world, with some going as far as Dubai.

The ambition and drive that launched the successful co-operative has not been lost either. A new brand of Dragon cheese, produced at the creamery, has recently been launched with the aim of making it the biggest brand in Wales.

Its a big ambition but we think we can do it, Alan said. There is a demand for a truly Welsh brand and we decided we should create it.

It all comes back to getting the best milk prices. Its been a very difficult ride for dairy farmers but we do hope that together we are helping each other. The things that are happening at the creamery are definitely something to be proud of and long may they continue.

The help and support John Roberts craved for dairy farmers is still at the heart of the co-operative. As well as being shareholders in the business, the farmer members are very much involved in the running of it. One of them is Bryn Jones, who keeps his herd of more than 130 Montbelliarde cows at his farm, Ty Newydd, which overlooks the coastline at Abersoch.

His family have been farming for generations and have been members of South Caernarfon Creameries since the beginning when his grandfather, Thomas, signed up. His father, Richard, was also once vice chairman of the group.

Bryn said: Supplying to the creameries has been invaluable for me and my family. All the milking we do is for cheese and curds. With the creamery you feel like you have more control over your produce. We try to work together to get the best conditions and pay for all of our members.

Its a co-operative that is driven through the passion of the local farmers and it couldnt run without them and the tremendous support we have got from the local people who buy our products. Farming has changed so much and it is very reassuring to know that the creamery is there. Im very proud to be a part of it.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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