Start-Up Cheesemaker



Melissa Jacka, Director and Cheesemaker 


At the end of 2013 we packed up our city life and moved to Tarrawingee in NE Victoria to set up a small goat dairy farmstead cheese factory on a 50ha property.  We have converted an original 1850s stone building into a cheese manufacturing facility with a maturation ‘cave’ in the cellar below.

We have a small herd of Saanen dairy goats and eight-stand milking platform.  We currently milk 21 does and process around 50 litres of milk a day.  We will be expanding the milking herd to around 60 girls over the next couple of years.

We have been producing cheese commercially since October 2015.  We attend a range of farmers markets in NE Victoria and in Melbourne.  We also run an online shop through our website.  In 2016 we plan to open our farm gate to give customers the opportunity to have the whole “pasture to plate” experience at Tolpuddle Farm.

How did you get started in the industry?

In 2012, after deciding that we wanted to complete a ‘tree change’ and establish our own farmstead cheese making business, I travelled to South Australia and completed a qualification from the Artisan Cheese Making Academy of Australia.  But the initial seed was planted 5 years earlier when I did a one-day cheese course at Red Hill Cheese on the Mornington Peninsula. That first camembert I ever made was a real crowd-pleaser!

Tell us a bit about your cheeses - what do you make? What makes them special?

We currently produce a small range of specialty goat cheeses and pasteurised milk.  Our fresh lactic cheeses include the classics – goat curd, chevre and a marinated Persian-style feta.  We also produce a semi-hard Alpine-style cheese and are having a crack at making a blue.  Our signature cheese, which we are really proud of, is a mould-ripened soft cheese that we call Great Alpine Road.

What is your favourite part about being a cheesemaker?

It is incredibly rewarding to take something as simple and humble as milk and make it into something that customers see as a special treat.  I love the seasonality of milk and the endearing nature of our goats.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

The major challenge is balancing all of the demands of farming, cheese making, running a small business and having a quality family life.  It’s a hard life but a good one!

What opportunities do you see for the future of the Australian specialty/artisan cheese industry?

There is enormous opportunity for the industry to educate customers about the availability of quality Australian artisan cheeses; to wean them off the familiar European imports and build support for our growing industry. Everyone in the industry has an important role to play in advocating for regulatory change, to open up more opportunities for creativity and innovation as well.

What does being part of ASCA mean to you?

Being part of ASCA means that I have access to a community of people who understand the challenges of our craft and are an e-mail or phone call away when I’m totally stumped.