Barely twelve years ago, Gerald (Gez) and Julie Drummond lived on a suburban block in Yanchep and worked a typical 9-5 week. Neither had experience running livestock – nor living off the land – yet today they are enjoying the ‘good life’ on their 148-acre Gingin bush block, hand-milking their own herd of goats and impressing chefs and foodies all over Perth with their own artisan cheese label Local Goat.
Gez recalls the moment that made them bite the bullet. “I was standing in the checkout queue in the supermarket one Saturday morning, and everyone was racing around. I thought, what would happen if someone flicked the switch? We’d be stuffed! How long would we survive?” It was the epiphany they needed to move to the country and begin building a more sustainable lifestyle.
Seeking a regular source of milk for their daily needs saw them bring home a nanny goat with twin kids at foot after a visit to a friend’s farm. Gez quickly got the hang of hand-milking and soon Julie was experimenting with the excess milk. “I started researching the health benefits of goats milk and found that it is known for being easy to digest and low in lactose. It is also full of nutrients and minerals and low in allergens,” she said.
Julie and Gez now run a small mob of goats – a mixture of the white Saanens known for their extended milking abilities and the high-volume milking British Alpines. “Goats are a good fit for our property as they don’t need pasture, they prefer to nibble on trees and bushes,” explains Julie. Managing their goats in a sustainable, ethical and environmentally-responsible manner is part of Gez and Julie’s commitment to living a sustainable life. “Happy, healthy goats produce high-quality milk which makes exceptional cheese!” says Julie.
Executive Chef of Fremantle’s Bread in Common, Scott Brannigan, can taste the difference. He began stocking Julie’s feta and camembert cheese after being given a sample, and he also uses the whey for dressings and as a baste. “You can tell the cheese is made from goats milked every day,” he said. “It has a unique and clean flavour. Not many people are doing it that way anymore.”
Julie attended a cheese-making course in the Swan Valley and embarked on a journey of self-learning to perfect her art, and although the process seems simple enough, Julie’s meticulous eye for detail is paramount to the consistent quality of her product. Cheese-making or caseiculture is an exact science and temperatures and weights must be measured to the degree and gram.
Currently Gez brings in about 13 litres from each morning’s milking – which takes up to two hours as the goats peruse their breakfast and take their turns at the milking stand. Julie makes a batch almost every day, alternating between feta, camembert and natural yogurt. Changes in the season are reflected in the fat content and the yield, however she is generally able to produce 1.5 kg of camembert from 10 litres of milk, or 1.6 kilos of feta style cheese. Yogurt translates directly from 10 litres of milk to 10 litres of yogurt – a low wastage, which Julie likes.
The Drummonds are committed to the quality of their product and although they plan to get a few more goats, they are passionate about keeping the process truly handmade and shy away from commercialising their product or producing too much.
“In France the small artisan dairies only make cheese to order. If you’re not on the list – no cheese!” says Gez, who admits he’s no connoisseur – he just likes good quality local food. And luckily, it’s close at hand.
You can buy Local Goat Cheese – even if you’re not on the list – at the Joondalup Growers Markets, Bindoon Farmers Markets or online at the Northern Valleys Locavore Store, at www.nvls.com.au.