Wangapeka Family Dairy

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Country Calendar story on Wangapeka Family Dairy

In a valley south of Nelson, a dairy farming family have turned their backs on large-scale production and built what started as a hobby into a thriving business.

"Our whole philosophy is quality over quantity," says Karen Trafford. 

Karen and husband Daryl began producing their own brand of gourmet cheese under the Wangapeka label, after noticing a ready market for good, locally produced food.

"People are becoming very aware of what they're eating," says Daryl. "And they like to know where it's come from before they stick it on their plate."

Daryl and Karen are no strangers to large-scale dairying, having milked big herds for 12 years. But they're enjoying the change of pace now that they're only milking 60 cows a day. 

Their cheese is made in a new factory built on their farm in the Tadmor Valley, an hour from Nelson. It's a streamlined process - the milk is pumped directly from the cowshed into the factory next door. 

Karen runs the factory with help from cheese-makers Ann Butler and Bonny Jacobsen. Karen and Daryl's daughter Rennae runs the office and takes care of marketing. 

Most of the Traffords' herd is a mix of Jerseys and Friesians, but lately Karen has been experimenting with Texas Longhorns. 

The breed gives birth to small calves, but they grow extremely quickly because of the high quality of their milk - and that's just what Karen is looking for.

"Even though they're not prolific milkers, their milk is full of protein and fat which means it's great for making cheese."

The Traffords sell their cheese from their own shop on the Appleby Highway, just outside Nelson. They also deliver supplies to cafes and supermarkets in the Nelson area, with demand continuing to grow. 

Going from milking 600 cows to just 60 has been a massive change but it's one that Daryl is more than happy with. 

"Life's good - we're taking our product from pasture right through to plate. It's great to be in charge of the whole thing." 

Karen agrees: "We're really in charge of our own destiny. It's not easy - you have to be dedicated to what you do - but you shouldn't be afraid of to go out on a limb and try something different."

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