29 Apr 2016

Origin Earth - A Hawkes Bay Boutique Dairy Company

From Country Life, 9:22 pm on 29 April 2016
Richard and Joanie Williams at Hawkes Bay Farmers' market

Richard and Joanie Williams at Hawkes Bay Farmers' market Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Having a cat and a mouse in your dairy factory isn't a good look.  Unless you're Origin Earth, a Hawkes Bay-based boutique fresh milk and cheese company.

Mouse is one of the people who makes the cheese, Kat is the person who milks the sheep to provide the liquid product.  

"Did we tell you about the first time Kat met Mouse," says co-founder Richard Williams, roaring with laughter.  "Mouse was a new employee working away, she looked up and said, "hi, who are you", and the reply was "hi, I'm Kat."  

Laughter runs as freely as the milk in this five year old business. Milk which is collected from two very special, near-by, dairy cow farms, and one sheep unit.

The farmers and processors are like one big family, and Joanie Williams says it's because of the work done  inside the farm gate,  that they can make such a great product.

Joanie Williams, Kat Gunson, Andy Gunson, Richard Williams, Olivia and Toby Gunson

Joanie, Kat and Andy Gunson, Richard, Olivia and Toby Gunson Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

They produce ten cheeses, fresh milk and yoghurt. All the cheeses received medals at this March's New Zealand Cheese Awards, including two Champion of Class titles.

Richard and Joanie developed the business after both had a mid-career crisis. Joanie was made redundant from a senior role in a rural servicing firm and Richard, who is also a cameraman for Country Calendar and Rural Delivery, lost the sight in his camera eye because of macular delamination.   "It's the only other part of my body that needs to work very reliably," says Richard.
Luckily the eye came right, but by then they'd set up Origin Earth. A name synonymous with their philosophy. "The origin of good products is the earth", says Joanie.  Their farmer suppliers are all biological farmers who specialise in looking after soil microbes.

Since their first steps at the Hawkes Bay Farmers' market in 2010, business has boomed.  They supply more than 25 cafes with fresh sheep and cows' milk, and local wineries use their milk and cheese. Supermarkets also stock their wares.

What will 2016  bring?  "Well" says Joanie, "I've been told by Mr Williams I have to consolidate. ….and I'd like to have a holiday."
"Oh, I don't know" laughs Richard "we could do with a second truck (milk tanker)"

"You can have a second truck. I'm having a holiday," Joanie replies.

Richard and Joanie Williams. With Louis

Richard and Joanie Williams. With Louis Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray