Local artisan producers across Oxfordshire enjoyed a boom during lockdown. From bread, cheese and butter to jam, chutney, eggs and sausages we have all been buying local a lot more than we might have done in pre-Covid days.
And for goat keeper and cheese maker Pedro Collins at The Little Village Dairy in Stoke Lyne, the buying local trend has helped to put his products on the map, but he says sales are now slowing down and is urging customers to continue to support small producers.
As well as his cheese making goats Pedro has his own sheep, chickens and a thriving vegetable garden and tries to be as self-sufficient as possible. He also organises fungi forays – walks to local woods to share his extensive knowledge of mushrooms and fungi with local groups, and wants to encourage people to buy local and be as self-sufficient as possible.
“During lockdown I was really busy and a little worried at first that I might not be able to keep up with the orders. People loved it because I make my cheese and leave it at the front of the house with an honesty box. Customers order from me then collect it and there is no contact required which is really easy. Local producers did well during lockdown, but sales are slowing now and it’s important that people continue to buy local and support us.”
Pedro’s cheeses are sold at Eagles in Deddington and at Fenemore Farms Micro Farm Shop at Clifton near Banbury. He has also partnered with sour dough specialist Sue Brown from Forge House Bakery in Lower Heyford during lockdown.
He added: “I make as much cheese as I can but also work full time as a biodiversity officer for the Environment Agency. My work involves monitoring environmental conditions and it is clear to me that we all need to look after the environment better and engage more with people like me who are growing and making their own food. You can’t buy cheese like mine in a supermarket, it is fresh, and all made here on the premises.”
Pedro’s ‘girls’ are three gorgeous goats – Missy, Rosie and the latest addition Gracy May. Inspired by his grandmother’s small holding, Pedro grew up with the idea that making and growing your own food was second nature.
“I was brought up with it and have always had goats and made cheese for myself, but didn’t really get into selling cheese until about five years ago. People tried it and really liked it, so I decided to have a go at selling it. I spent about six months getting everything ready and getting checked out by environmental health who really supported me to get going.”
Within five minutes of the goats being milked, Pedro is busy in his dairy starting the cheese making process. It takes about four weeks from milking the goats to the cheese being ready to eat. It is wrapped, boxed, labelled and stored in a chilled cheese cave ready to be sent out to various stockists or collected by customers.
“Lots of people are put off eating goats’ cheeses because of the smell – it can be quite pungent. However, the cheese I make has a really fresh and clean taste because the milk is used quickly. It is all about the speed, you either have to use the milk or chill it quickly and that’s why my cheese tastes so good.”
The Little Village Dairy cheese range includes a classic goats cheese All About Rosie, Fenny Gill which is a blue, tangy cheese and a fresh soft cheese.
Pedro added that the really fresh cheese he makes can be eaten the next day. “It is a garlic and herb or chilli fresh cheese and you can eat it pretty much straight away. The whole process of having a small holding with the goats is really satisfying and making something that people like makes me really happy. I am a small, bijou producer and customers like that because there is no farming intensification here. It’s just me, the sheep, the chickens and the goats and I love it.”
To find out more and try some of Pedro’s cheese ring 07881 838089 or find him on Facebook at The Little Village Dairy or email firstname.lastname@example.org