27 Oct 2017

Keeping it Natural

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 27 October 2017
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Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

With a passion for healthy living and a belief that conventional farming was affecting people's health, Southland farmers Robin and Lois Greer (above) stopped using chemicals on their Tuturau dairy farm 15 years ago and headed down the organic path.

Before they moved south, the couple were sharemilkers on a conventional dairy farm in Waikato.

"Our families have quite a history of cancer and so we believe that the food chain has something to do with that and the chemicals in it, so we didn't actually set out to be organic, we set out just to take out some of them nasty chemicals out of our farming system," says Robin.

When the farm achieved organic certification Lois and Robin established Retro Organics and built a large cheese and yogurt making factory near the milking shed.

Robin was already predicting strong demand for chemical-free dairy products.

"I think that's the way farming will go in the future obviously, because of the restrictions that are going to be put on chemical fertilisers."

It took 18 months of trial and error in the Greer's kitchen to learn how to make cheese and yogurt before they felt it was good enough for commercial production.

"Looking back I can see that our cheese making has advanced to even better than it was then," Lois admits with a giggle.

Currently they make halloumi, feta, gruyere, brie, camembert and cheddar at the factory. The cheese is sold in shops and supermarkets throughout New Zealand and the next target for the cheese is the Australian market.

Their non-homogenised milk comes from a herd of jersey cows and is sold for a premium to the Open Country Dairy Company.

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