Behind the Barn Doors: Visiting Our Partner Farms

As part of my job as the director of Rennet and Rind, I get to travel up and down the country to rural havens and pristine pastures where the cheese we offer is made. I get to see the farms up close and meet the wonderful people behind some of the best artisan cheeses in Britain, and I’m continually in awe of the ingenuity needed to not only create some of these spectacular taste phenomenons but to sustain themselves through harsh economic times and putting up a fight against the mass producers that stock supermarket shelves.

Which is why I wanted to put a spotlight on them in this blog, to pull back the curtain and give you an insight into the traditional methods, uncommon level of expertise and sustainable farming practices that these farms hold. And, as a reminder, you can find stories about the cheesemaker behind every one of our products on the product page, as well as its milk contents and my own maturation notes.

A Dedication to Preserving History

When we say ‘the art of cheesemaking’, it’s a bit of a misnomer. Fact is, there’s a different art to making almost every single different type of cheese, and many of them have been passed down from generations and preserved in their traditional form. 

Mary Quicke

Mary Quicke, maker of Quickes Cheddar and Alpen Cheddar, is the custodian of a home cheese farm and business that has been passed down through 14 generations. Similarly, Michael Davies resurrected a 300-year-old recipe for Dorset Blue Vinny in 1980, unearthing a part of Dorset’s history that was almost lost to time if not for his efforts.

Michael Davies

Keeping the authentic traditional methods alive involves great sacrifice. Jonny Crickmore, co-maker of the earthy Baron Bigod brie, has spoken to me about how he has been waking up at 3am since the age of four, when he would sneak out with his dad to help with the farm.

Mario Olianas, maker of the exceptional Yorkshire Pecorino, tells a similar tale. “I get up at around 3am daily to make the cheese in small batches,” he says. “Each cheese is Individually moulded and cared for until they are ready to be enjoyed. We genuinely want our focus and dedication to be on each of our cheeses, made to perfection individually.” This is what great cheesemakers do to ensure that they are doing exactly what they need and when, and the rewards are tangible in the cheese’s complex flavours. Plus, these traditional methods mean these farms have a more sustainable cheesemaking practice than more industrialised farms.

Other artisans have managed to galvanise their community, who see the way in which an individual type of cheese can invigorate the local area. Dorset Blue Vinny is one of the prized products to come from the town of Sturminster Newton, whose economy is built around agriculture. Cropwell Bishop Stilton and Beauvale are both handled by Robin and Ben Skailes, and their farm has become a large place of employment for the village of Cropwell Bishop, some of whom have been working there for over 30 years.

Meanwhile, others are first-generation cheesemakers who have come into the practice with a burning passion and existing expertise. David Jowett turned away from culinary arts but cheese inspired him to shift from cooking dishes to producing its ingredients. The result is brand new ideas using traditional methods, such as Yarlington, a washed rind that is soaked in apple cider.

Traditional Cheese Is Sustainable

In the world of artisan cheesemaking, sustainability isn't just a buzzword but a deeply ingrained practice. The farming methods employed are far less intensive than those found in industrial-scale cheese production. By choosing traditional techniques, these artisan cheesemakers are not just preserving culinary heritage but also advocating for environmental health. Unlike the endless rows of cellophane-wrapped cheese found on supermarket shelves, the products from these artisans speak of a commitment to quality and sustainability.

It flows through every part of the process, including sourcing ingredients. These cheesemakers prioritise local sourcing for their milk, significantly reducing the carbon footprint compared to the mass production of cheese. The journey from farm to cheese is short and sweet, both metaphorically and literally.

The use of heritage animal breeds and age-old farming methods, such as herbal-leys, grass feeding and mob-grazing, might seem archaic to some, but actually have a more carbon-friendly output. It's a holistic approach that looks beyond just cheese production, focusing on the well-being of the animals, the health of the land, and the overall ecosystem.

Moreover, these traditional methods contribute to greater biodiversity. The pastoral landscapes where these cheeses are made are teeming with life, from birds and bees to small vertebrates and a rich variety of plant life. It's a stark contrast to the monocultures often associated with industrial farming.

The Soil Association, the UK's premier environmental charity dedicated to promoting sustainable, organic farming and advocating for human health, plays a pivotal role in the narrative of artisan cheesemaking. A notable figure in this sphere is Patrick Holden, who has been a part of the farm producing the distinguished Hafod hard cheddar since the 1970s. His commitment to sustainable agriculture extends beyond his farm; he was an integral member of the Soil Association, serving as its Director until 2010. Under his stewardship, the association has championed the principles of organic farming, which are deeply aligned with the ethos of traditional cheesemaking. Holden's involvement with the association underlines the interconnectedness of environmental stewardship and the production of high-quality, sustainable cheese. The legacy of his work with the Soil Association continues to influence and inspire a new generation of cheesemakers who are committed to these vital principles of sustainability and health.

Of the association, Rose Grimond, creator of the exorbitantly creamy and luxurious Bix, had this to say: “We truly believe that the most responsible way to create food is to be certified organic by The Soil Association. By not using pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers, we enable nature to carry on in her own way — and with that comes a wealth of biodiversity. We are extremely lucky to be able to enjoy the countryside around the farm with its abundance of wildlife, as well as to enjoy the exceptional milk produced by the happy herd of cows, and the dairy products we make using that milk.”

In essence, traditional cheesemaking is an ode to a time when food production was in harmony with nature. It's a reminder that in our pursuit of efficiency and scalability, we must not lose sight of the values of sustainability and ecological balance. These artisan cheesemakers are not just crafting delicious cheeses; they're nurturing a more sustainable and hopeful vision for our planet.

Discover British Sustainable Cheeses at Rennet and Rind

Shop for sustainably crafted artisan cheeses with our rich collection bringing award-winning varieties straight to your doorstep. Try our acclaimed Mystery Cheese Box is a favourite among our dedicated enthusiasts. Each month, we curate a fresh collection of the UK's finest artisan cheeses, allowing you a glimpse into our vast selection. These boxes are paired with complimentary crackers, informative cards detailing the history of each cheese, and an art piece inspired by the assortment. Best of all, each cheese is made using traditional, environmentally friendly methods, so there’s little reason not to discover the world of British artisan cheeses with Rennet and Rind today.


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Quickes Cheddar - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese
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Hafod - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese
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Baron Bigod - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese
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Cropwell Bishop Stilton - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese

Perry James Wakeman

Head Cheesemonger of Rennet & Rind. Qualified MonS Affineur, World Cheese Awards Judge and Patron/Trainer of The Academy of Cheese.

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