Goosnargh's Lancashire cheese maker
PUBLISHED: 19:41 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:32 20 February 2013
Former mechanic Graham Kirkham is proving he is the cream of the crop as a cheesemaker
Graham Kirkham is now regarded as one of our big cheeses and although the former car mechanic started out in a small way, he always had big plans.
His expansion included a new milking parlour, a purpose-built dairy, cheese production area, office, and despatch depot and Graham was quick to tell me of the support he has received from many businesses, with Neals Yard Dairy receiving particular praise.
No milk has left the Kirkhams farm, just north of Goosnargh, for more than 20 years. The family make cheese every day; there is no milk contract as a back-up. When I first visited, the herd comprised 40 Friesian Holsteins, these now number a hundred.
Graham said: My grandma made cheese all her life, then one day she fetched my mum all the equipment and just showed her how to make it.
That was some 35 years ago and the farm has never looked back.
I set out to learn a trade and became a car mechanic but as life on the farm got busier I was increasingly drawn back into the family business. Life in the car trade became dirtier and greasier and one day looking at oil draining out of car sumps I thought, Surely there must be something other than this? I went back to the farm and enjoyed working with my family and helping to make great cheese.
We were given great help by a number of people, particularly Peter Gott, from Sillfield Farm near Kendal, who pushed us into the retail sector. He loaned us scales and even the waxed paper to wrap the cheese in.
On our first outing to a farmers market we had no idea what we were doing. We got hopelessly lost, and fell out of the van still wearing our dairy aprons and white wellies.
But once we had the cheese out of the van and people sampled it, the crowds were five deep. Wed sold out by 2pm.
The dairy now produces 70 tonnes of cheese a year and although things have moved quickly since 2005 when building work started, Graham wants to keep the family run business as just that with a maximum production levelling off at around 100 tonnes.
With their cheese now on sale at farmers markets, and in acclaimed delicatessens and stockists including Paxton & Whitfield, Harrods, Waitrose, Selfridges, Marks and Spencer and Harvey Nichols, the family must all be very proud.