It's not every day you turn up to interview someone only to be greeted with a glass of wine and a beautiful cheese spread. Today was my lucky day!
Greeted by Carolyn, the mastermind behind sheep cheese and her daughter Dallas, the guru behind their marketing, we make our way over to the homestead to settle down on the deck overlooking the beautiful garden.
Set on a comfortable 300 acres, Towri Sheep Cheeses is a hidden gem in the Scenic Rim. Purchased in 1988 by Carolyn and her husband Lynn Davidson, what started as a hobby, quickly turned into a lucrative cheese business.
"We bought Towri in 1988 specifically for our polocrosse horses. Once we all stopped playing polocrosse, Dallas went off to university to study Film and Television, and Renee went into the police force, I thought what am I going to do now? I'm bored!" says Carolyn.
At that stage, Carolyn, who was missing her sheep, having been brought up surrounded by sheep in Western Queensland, decided that sheep cheese would be a good idea. With minimal knowledge of cheese-making, other than eating it, Carolyn signed up for an intensive cheese-making course with master cheese-maker Neil Willman. Not long after, Towri Sheep cheeses officially opened its doors in 2005.
Married in 1980, Carolyn says that Lynn puts up with all her extra activities. Dallas describes while laughing, “It was only meant to be a hobby. Mum said I need a shed and then Dad's like, okay, here's a shed. A giant shed." The shed tuned out so big, it took them 12 months to pull it down and re-erect it on the farm.
Carolyn's day starts with milking the sheep. The milk goes into a vat in the cheese room and the process of making cheese can be started within half an hour of the sheep being milked. Fetta can be salted and eaten the next day and Eweghurt (sheep yoghurt) takes 18-20 hours to coagulate and another 24 hours to drain. The sheep are milked by machine once a day, which means Carolyn is able to leave the lambs on their mother's.
"We like the fact that we can leave the lambs on and they can naturally wean themselves. It's just a nice process then. It's not only a one-sided thing, but it also means that we can skip milking for a day and not take the lambs off which won't affect the sheep. It works both ways."
Sheep milk cheeses are very healthy with up to 3 times the protein of normal cows milk cheeses, 1.5 times higher in calcium and higher in all minerals and vitamins, as well as short trans fatty acids which are good fats like avocado, in turn, lowering your cholesterol. Sheep cheeses are so high in protein that people who are highly lactose intolerant can generally tolerate sheep cheese. The process of making sheep cheese may be easy, but maturing it is the hard part. With approximately only one litre of milk being milked per sheep and 40 litres of milk per cow, you can imagine the price difference.
Dallas says, "It takes 10 litres or sheep's milk to make 1 kg of cheese. Obviously, the price is more which people don't seem to realise. There is also a little more labour involved. It's an educational process informing people."
Currently, Towri Sheep Cheeses who already cater for events, are in the process of expanding the farm to cater for weddings. Having such a lovely garden, they're also hoping to bring in photoshoots, fashion shows and high tea parties.
Carolyn, who is still incredibly passionate about cheese-making, officially has her second trade show tucked under the belt when she attended a trade show in late September after being specially invited. This has given her the opportunity to talk to chefs about what they can offer them in their restaurants and how to cater to them. This will also hopefully expand the number of Scenic Rim businesses that stock her cheeses.
With no plans for retirement in the near future, Carolyn will continue her passion for cheese making. She ends our beautiful afternoon on the farm with the old saying 'sheep cheese will make you fat, but it won't give you a heart attack'. So support your local Scenic Rim business and stock up on sheep cheese to your heart's content. Ewe you won't be disappointe