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TAS Country : July 2010
Milk punt set to pay off for Ashgrove When Jane Bennett, from Ashgrove Farm Cheese, decided to dip her toe into the fresh milk market about two years ago, she had no idea how challenging that move would be. Karolin MacGregor reports FARM FRESH: Jane Bennett with some Ashgrove milk. Picture: KAROLIN MacGREGOR A MAJOR expansion has begun at Ashgrove's Elizabeth Town factory. Ashgrove branded milk will soon be seen in even more shops across the state. ''Compared to making cheese, the milk is ex- tremely complex and so much harder, and a lot of that is just because of logistics and the time fra- mes involved,'' Ashgrove's Jane Bennett said. ''When we first decided we'd test the water with fresh milk I had no idea how difficult it would be. ''With cheese, you make it today and you can sell it in a year or so, but with milk, if the trucks don't make deliveries for some reason I'm getting phone calls from shop owners at seven o'clock in the morn- ing asking where it is.'' Despite the challenges, Ashgrove milk sales have continued to grow and af- ter a boost in their main- land cheese sales over the past 18 months as well, Ms Bennett says the business has well and truly outgrown its existing fa- cilities at the original Ash- grove factory. ''Our staff have been absolutely fantastic --- they've worked under qu- ite difficult conditions over the past 18 months just because we don't have enough space for every- thing. So a big part of the reason we want to put up this new building is to improve the conditions for them,'' Ms Bennett said. The new factory build- ing will include a large amount of cool storage, as well as a dedicated milk bottling line and cheese cutting and wrapping fa- cilities. Ms Bennett said having the extra space would al- low Ashgrove to improve efficiency and also in- crease production of both cheese and milk. The new factory will be built not far from the exist- ing building and will also include a truck loading bay. ''One of the big changes we've noticed with the milk is just the logistics of transporting it, which is completely different from cheese,'' she said. ''We now have two semi- trailers a day coming in and out of the factory.'' Unable to compete against the large fresh- milk companies, Ms Ben- nett said she had instead focused on making a point of difference between Ash- grove milk and the other brands. ''One of the things that has really surprised me is how passionate people are about their milk,'' she said. ''People often say posi- tive things about our cheeses, but people are actually really passionate about the milk and I think that's because milk is something that you con- sume every day, so if you can make it better, then that's an experience people can have every day.'' Ashgrove milk comes in full-fat, 99 per cent fat free and non-homogenised varieties and Ms Bennett said the major difference between Ashgrove and most fresh milk is they didn't standardise the fat content. ''What comes out of the cows is what you get in our full-fat milk,'' she said. Unlike standardised milk, Ms Bennett said their milk did vary throughout the season as the cows went through different stages of their natural lactation cycle, which meant some cus- tomers had to be educated. ''Last year in spring, when we had a lot of fresh cows in, we had some customers ringing up com- plaining that we'd watered down the milk, but we had to explain that is just be- cause we had all these cows that had only just calved, so the fat content of their milk goes down,'' Ms Bennett said. ''Once customers are aware the milk can change throughout the year, I think that's one of the things they really like about our milk.'' The fat removed from the fat-reduced milk is used to make butter, which comes in three different styles --- unsalted, tra- ditional farmhouse and herb and garlic. There is also Ashgrove cream available. About 60 employees work at Ashgrove and most are from the Deloraine, Mole Creek and Sheffield communities. Ms Bennett said being part of the local com- munity was something the company valued highly. ''I really like that aspect of what we do,'' she said. ''For us, it's very much about creating a sense of community in our busi- ness and being part of the community.'' Ms Bennett thrives on coming up with new ideas and said constant change was vital, especially in the 8 Tasmanian Country Friday, July 30, 2010 Feature Island's strategy TASMANIAN ALKALOIDS Value Adding in Tasmania 2027824-100716 Germinating poppy crops can be at risk. Watch out for slugs, snails, earthmites and springtails. Take appropriate action if required. Your Field Officer can advise. .
August 5th 2010