Client Profile: White Lake Cheese Limited
11 October 2017
White Lake Cheese; at home on Bagborough Farm
Opening their doors 12 years ago, White Lake Cheese Limited have established themselves as a leading brand in the artisan cheese industry.
Based in Pylle, Somerset, you may have come across their eclectic mix of goat, cow and sheep’s cheese, perhaps even at your local farmer’s market.
It is at Bagborough Farm where their whacky and creative ideas for new cheeses are conjured up, and their selection of goats’ cheese is provided by Roger Longman’s own herd which includes a mix of Toggenburg, British Alpine and Saanen goats.
The farm has been in the Longman family for decades, when Roger’s grandfather started a business making cheese and cider back in 1933. In the 1960’s, land was sold to The Royal Bath and West Society and eventually the running of the farm was passed down to Roger’s father.
As with all farm businesses, they faced many challenges over the years to keep the farm steering towards success. The family invested in rebuilding the farm and, when they weren’t making enough profit in 1999, the decision was made to close one of their two farms.
Following the death of Roger’s father in 2001, the farm went through a lot of changes. Land was sold to clear debts and, with the foot and mouth outbreak hitting many businesses, movement restrictions were put in place, slowing the growth of the herd. Taking on the management of the business, Roger decided to use their best available resource. They had already started milking goats and with the current circumstances, this seemed like the next appropriate venture.
It seemed the change in strategy worked well for the business, and in 2004 Roger began a new business partnership with Peter and the collaboration saw the founding of White Lake Cheese Ltd. Roger sold the remaining cows and the focus was on goats’ cheese, being their speciality.
White Lake Cheese now have 25 different cheeses, most of which are goats’ cheese. Conventional rules within the artisan cheese industry do not apply here, their success has come from being different and pushing the limits of what cheese they can create.
In order to reduce food miles as much as possible, White Lake Cheese use Roger’s goats, a local Guernsey herd provide their cows’ milk and their sheeps’ milk comes from a flock that live just down the road from Bagborough Farm.
To find their inspiration, both Roger and Peter travel to France and Germany to learn about the different cultures of cheese making and how this can be incorporated into their own whacky creations. “No one else does what we do.” explains Roger, “All of our cheeses are hand-made with no machinery, it’s always been this way and really makes a difference to the quality of the cheese.”
White Lake Cheese’s Pavé Cobble won British Supreme Champion of 2017, Best Fresh Cheese, Best English Cheese and Best Specialist Cheese Maker. The milk used for this is from sheep’s milk and pays homage to the famous cobbled cycling stages, inspired by Roger’s keen interest in cycling. Roger has been focusing on cheese making in the factory for many years, and now with the growing success of the business, he is looking to focus back on the farm once again to ensure their 700 plus goats are cared for and managed effectively to produce the highest quality of milk.
They don’t supply supermarkets – they don’t need to. Their cheeses are sold through wholesalers and many are exported to Norway, Australia, Italy, France and also America. The team do not appear worried about the current economic climate and the possible outcome of Brexit, if anything, there is an air of optimism as Roger says “If the UK was to open a trade deal with America, this could open a door of opportunities for small businesses”.
Roger will continue investing in the farm for the next ten years and decisions are currently being made about the succession of the farm to his two children. “Not enough people think about succession or what they’re going to do with their business – you just need a plan, it doesn’t take much” explains Roger.
In the next couple of years, the business hope to build a goat farm with a parlour to hold 3,000 goats, and a new cheese room to expand on the growing demands of the business. They also plan to grow their own wood for a biomass boiler to be used in their cheese making process, which will help keep the factory going for years to come.
As with many farming businesses, it is important to have a plan and to monitor progress, adjusting where necessary. In Roger’s case, it was a matter of embracing challenges head on and thinking creatively; even looking overseas for that bit of inspiration and not being afraid to make long-term decisions.
Find out more at www.whitelake.co.uk