The dairy industry has had its fair share of difficulty over the last decade. Drought, bushfire and sustained milk pricing stoushes created a less than ideal marketplace, with many locally owned producers battling to endure.
What the supermarket chains failed to recognise was the average Australian’s desire to support their own, coupled with an increasing demand for fresh, locally made milk and butter produced using minimal processing and no artificial additives.
Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds both hail from Gippsland dairy farming families. In 2016 tragedy struck, with the death of Sallie’s father leaving her wondering how to carry on his legacy. Occurring almost simultaneously, the drastic cut to farmgate milk prices saw Steve’ profits decimated overnight.
A chance meeting between the two led to the birth of Gippsland Jersey and a commitment to creating superior dairy products using sustainable methods. With a tandem mission to ensure that local farmers receive a fair price, the pair hopes to alleviate the financial hardship that causes stress and too easily leads to mental ill health.
Sallie and Steve started with the creamy rich milk that Jersey cows are renowned for, packed with protein and calcium. By working collaboratively with other farmers and avoiding large processing facilities, the Gippsland Jersey team has ensured a more equitable market, with farmers being paid fairly for the goods they produce.
Sallie’s dad also had a keen interest in butter. She remembers hand churning as a youngster and slicing portions off a 20 kg block at farmers’ markets, where buyers went crazy for the delicious golden product.
In a serendipitous turn, Gippsland Jersey started working with Australia’s Queen of Butter, Naomi Ingleton, to produce its artisanal butter.
Originally a Gippsland girl, Naomi had relocated to Beechworth in NE Victoria and was running a cafe. She turned to butter production when the Black Saturday fires devastated the area and tourist numbers dropped. Having discussed all things butter with Sallie’s dad in the past, her working with Gippsland Jersey was a natural conclusion. She helped the team set up their butter production, tweaking her award-winning recipe to accommodate the use of Jersey cream, with the results doing her recipe and reputation justice.
Sallie credits connection with Food & Fibre Gippsland as being integral to Gippsland Jersey’s success. As a start-up organisation with limited cash flow in an industry bound by regulation and dominated by foreign-owned giants, the support and services provided by FFG have opened many doors and led to valuable collaborative relationships with other producers in the area, helping to foster success in one of Australia’s all important agribusiness regions.