Cows don’t jump, even on the lush pastures of the South Waikato. But they do produce the great milk that has helped turn Putaruru based Over the Moon Dairy Company into a high flier in the very competitive world of artisan cheese making.
In less than five years Over the Moon Dairy has won a string of awards at home and abroad for distinctive cheeses that include cows milk brie, halloumi and washed rind, and more exotic types made from the milk of buffalos, goats and sheep.
"Even though we produce beautiful milk in this country, traditionally we haven't been very creative cheese markers," says Over the Moon Dairy founder Sue Arthur. "I'm out to broaden the range of cheeses being eaten in New Zealand."
Sue specialises in cheeses made with the creamy milk of jersey cow herds in the South Waikato and with blends of milk from the three other animal types, including buffalo farmed at Matakana in North Auckland. The Putaruru factory employs 12 people and makes around 15 tonnes of cheese annually. Sue and her devout team of artisan cheese makers have turned out 35 different types so far and their creativity grows constantly.
"I travel in France and elsewhere for a month each year sampling cheeses and gathering ideas," she says. "I bring the ideas home and put a twist on them, as with our blended buffalo goats milk tomme." (For this tomme, Over the Moon Dairy won Best of Class, Soft & Semi Soft Mixed Milk Cheeses, at the US based World Champion Cheese Contest, in 2010).
The company has joined GS1 to support the launch of its new "Runaway Spoon" range, to be sold in New Zealand's major supermarket chains brie, camembert and washed rind, all made with milk from those special South Waikato jerseys. Over the Moon Dairy branding is, of course, inspired by the old English nursery rhyme, "Hey diddle diddle".
For Sue Arthur, cheese making has long since passed the fiddling around stage of her home kitchen experimentation in the 1990s (and her day job was in senior management at the South Waikato District Council). "As I get towards the end of my career, I just want to make the best cheeses I possibly can."