Natalie and Lois, two of the Real Food Store’s managers, set out to Crediton to visit Dave and Marilyn Johnson who run Norsworthy dairy. This is part of an ongoing project to learn more about our local producers, and really celebrate the fantastic work they do! This was one of the visits that we had most been looking forward to! We both have a bit of a soft spot for goats, and Lois even has fond memories of spending her childhood with her pet goat Tilly!
The dairy is nestled in the most beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Crediton, and we couldn’t have chosen a nicer morning to visit! We struggled initially to find the right place, but after driving up and down the same lanes Lois thought she heard bleating so we slowed down, and sure enough spied goats through the fence so figured we must be in the right place! We were greeted by Marilyn, and two very friendly dogs, who took us into the dairy to chat with Dave who had just finished making that morning’s batch of cheese.
Dave told us that he decided to start keeping goats after spending some time as a relief working, and realising what lovely friendly animals they are, and it was clear to us from the start that he really loves what he does. Norsworthy began in 1991 with 40 nanny goats. Initially, they didn’t have enough buyers for the amount of milk they were producing, so they would freeze a lot of it and use it to feed the kids the following year. They also took some of the excess milk to North Devon to be made into cheese.
By 2002, demand for their cheese had increased, and goats milk was becoming less of a niche product. They began to regularly sell their cheese at farmers markets around Devon, and in 2006 applied for planning permission to build their own on site dairy. This was approved, and they were also awarded an ERDP rural development grant to help them get up and running.
They now produce three different varieties of unpasteurised goat cheese: the hard Dutch-style Gunstone, the semi-hard Norsworthy, and the soft creamy Tillerton.They believe that by not pasteurising the milk it retains enzymes and good bacteria, which are otherwise destroyed by the pasteurization process. Many people also find goat’s milk easier to digest than cow’s milk, as it has lower levels of lactose and the fat globules are much smaller!Unlike raw cow’s milk, which due to TB restrictions can only be sold directly to the public, Dave and Marilyn can also sell their unpasteurised goats milk through a third party (luckily for us here at the Real Food Store!).
After chatting to Dave in the dairy, he showed us their storage chiller where they mature the cheese. He explained that they are now making more and more long-lasting larger cheeses in the hope that this will allow them to maintain a steady supply all year round, even when the goats are in kid and milk supplies are low.
Dave and Marilyn now have 120 goats on the farm, which produce between 250-300lt of milk a day. They have a mixture of breeds including Alpine, Toggenburg, Anglo-Nubian and Saanen, including 3 billy goats. We went outside to meet some of them, and were excited to hear that just that morning 3 babies had been born, including one set of twins! We first met a group of young goats who were weaned from their mothers (they are typically weaned at around 8 weeks), and they were nearly as excited to see us as we were them! Goats are apparently very long living and will produce milk for much longer than cows- Dave told us he has some that are nearly 11 and still going strong! We went inside the barn to meet the new-borns, and were surprised to see how big they are, and that they were already up and on their feet.
Dave explained that the goats always have access to the field outside, but that they are quite fussy and don’t like the rain! They were enjoying the sunshine when we visited, and lots of them were out in the field. We went out to see them and they must have through we were bringing food as they galloped over to greet us. As well as grazing outside, the goats are fed on brewers-grain, which is the solid residue left after the processing of germinated and dried cereal for the production of beer and other malt products. This is mainly barley, but can also be a mixture of wheat, maize, rice, sorghum and millet.
Eventually we tore ourselves away, but we thoroughly enjoyed our visit and would like to thank Dave and Marilyn for taking the time to show us around!