Goat Milk Cheese at Gruff Junction

April 2014

A boutique goat milk cheese producer

Ev Moorhead and his daughter Anna run Gruff Junction, an award-winning goat’s milk cheese business that they started in 2006.

Ev visited a few goat farms in Auckland in the late 1990s during his time as a lecturer at Lincoln and in 2001 he decided to have a go at farming goats himself. He started out with 4 does and these days he has a herd of nearly 200 goats.

Initially it looked like the farm would be able to supply pasteurized milk to supermarkets but this proved a very small market at that time and not a sustainable business proposition. A potential milk powder plant in South Canterbury did not eventuate either.

By then Ev’s daughter Anna, who has a degree in microbiology, had become interested in cheese-making. While she was overseas in the UK she visited a few goat farms and learnt how to make cheese. She worked on the World Cheese Awards 3 years running and gained a position as cheesemaker at a farm in Norfolk, based a few hours north of London. When she came home to New Zealand she started making cheese from Greenpark Farm’s goats’ milk. Gruff Junction was formed in 2006.

Making cheese takes a lot of milk. About 10 litres of milk will give you one kilogram of cheese. They pasteurize their milk for cheese making and use vegetable rennet.

The Gruff Junction cheeses keep on winning national awards and they’ve traditionally had a steady demand in the national market. Anna’s cheeses have won gold, silver and bronze awards for most of their 15 varieties of cheeses, most notably, the NZ Cuisine Champions of Cheese Awards champion goat cheese in 2010 and the most original cheese in 2012 called the Darfield Earthquake cheese. There’s also a range of soft cheeses that Anna makes during the milking season which have picked up a host of medals.

Anna and Ev sell their cheese at a range of stockists throughout the North and South Island (see website www.gruffjunction.co.nz.) They also sell at the Lyttelton Farmers Market.

After the earthquake the farm had to drop its goat numbers back from 270 to just under 200 in 2011, because it had to process and sell everything it produces itself.

Anna has been involved in the marketing of their product and travels nationwide, visiting chefs and shops to get more customers further afield. More recently the business started diversifying to cater for raw milk customers although cheese sales are still 90 per cent of the business.

Raw milk is a little lower in fat that cow’s milk and the fat globules are much smaller, making it easier to digest. Some people who are allergic to cow’s milk can drink goat’s milk. It is said to be the closest mammalian milk to human mother’s milk.

The farm has been open for tours. This includes a farm tour and a visit to the cheese factory and the milking parlour – rounded off with cheese tasting.

Greenpark Farm’s goats are mostly Saanens and a few Nubians and Toggenburgs. They graze on grass and Ev also feeds them supplements. There’s a barn where they can get out of the cold. The goats are milked from September through to April. They supply unpasteurized goats milk by arrangement to people with allergies or lactose intolerance.

Ev says at the end of this milking season they would like to sell the business.

He says he and Anna have yet to find someone to take it over as a going concern. The land the farm is based on is quite valuable, so another option is to sell the business and goats to a purchaser at a different location.