Saturday, April 13, 2024

Dairy farm draws on the good ol’ days

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In an area known for its sun, sand, surf and creative culture, one farming family has turned back the clock and delivering milk in glass bottles.
The Hill family milks 160 cows on their 121-hectare farm at Raglan and produce more than 6000 litres of milk a week. Photo: Dreamview Creamery
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By Audrey Hayes

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

A short trip down a gravel road and a winding driveway into the coastal hills of Raglan lies a family farm focused on environmentally friendly practices and the nostalgia of delivered milk in crates. 

Dreamview Creamery is a relatively new venture for the Hill family, who have called the farm home for 23 years. The creamery has just reached five years in business, something Jess, the manager of the creamery, is extremely proud of. 

Bronwyn and David Hill started their farming journey during the 1990s in Hamilton with a 10-acre block to rear calves and then to sharemilking. Bronwyn, who grew up on a dairy farm in Te Uku, would work during the day as a lab technician and David worked as a carpenter. The move to early mornings and late night’s sharemilking didn’t discourage them though and once David had enough farming experience under his belt, they sold their 10-acre block and moved their young family and their cows out to the coast. 

“At the time, no one wanted to go dairy farming in Raglan,” Bronwyn laughs.

“It wasn’t the place to go at all. It was a shock for everyone, the cows had never seen a hill before.” 

The rocky hills were a stark difference from the flat farming land they were used to, but the Hill family are never one to shy away from a new challenge.

So, when their eldest daughter Jess came to them five years ago with the idea to sell their milk in glass bottles, they jumped at the opportunity. 

“I was finishing a Bachelor of Agriculture at Lincoln University and helping someone sell milk in glass bottles at the Lyttleton Farmers Market. Lyttleton is a similar kind of vibe to Raglan, real alternative and environmentally friendly, and I thought it would be awesome to have something similar in Raglan,” Jess says. 

While visiting Jess at university, Bronwyn and David got to see first-hand how passionate people were to get their milk. 

“It was so cool to see, everyone was so excited to get their bottles,” Bronwyn says. 

With her parents on board, Jess finished her degree a year early and came back to the family farm to help start Dreamview.

“David was completely on board, he’s got that real engineering brain,” Bronwyn says. 

She and Jess say they often find him deep in thought, “he’s always thinking and planning on how to make things work,” Bronwyn adds. 

Dreamview Creamery is a family affair owned and operated by the Hill family and supplies milk in glass bottle to the public. From left Daughter Jess, creamery manager, David and Bronwyn, son Matt and daughter Kathy, farm manager.

The 121-hectare, 160-cow farm has come a long way in five years. They started their new business venture by bottling 30 litres of raw milk each week in a 20-foot shipping container. Increased demand over three years had them producing over 5000 litres of raw and pasteurised A2/A2 milk and cream. 

“That was the maximum we could do in that space,” Jess says.

“There were three of us working in that container, you could just squeeze past each other.” 

At this point, customers were able to drive right up to the milking shed and collect their milk, a rare but exciting experience for many locals. 

“Two years ago, we started building a new facility and we moved in July of last year.” 

The 200-square metre creamery offers more space, automated processes and a new 1000-litre pasteuriser allowing the Dreamview crew to produce more than 6000 litres of milk a week. 

They’ve also moved on from solely producing milk and cream and are passionate to get into new products. As it stands, their full product line includes A2/A2 raw and pasteurised milk, trim and cream, and their newest addition, natural yoghurt. 

While adding new products is exciting, it requires new testing for food safety.

“In terms of MPI, we are strict on making sure we do everything right, so we don’t have too much trouble with it. They have very high expectations, and it can be very expensive. There’s a lot of testing required, especially for raw milk. We’ve found that as long as you show you are really trying, they aren’t unreasonable though,” Jess says. 

Sales will start soon for their yoghurt, which has nothing added to the milk except for the culture, staying in line with their ‘nothing added’ ethos that drives their whole product line. “We are considering doing some flavours,” Bronwyn whispers like it’s a well-kept secret. She’s been playing around with different options, and certainly enjoying eating them, she says. 

Fans of Dreamview Creamery are waiting on the edge of their seats for the addition of cheese to the products coming from the farm, but Jess and Bronwyn say that’s still a work in progress. 

“We always thought we were going to do cheese before we did anything else, but it’s a specialised thing, we would definitely need more equipment,” Jess says.

When they do start selling cheese, one thing is for sure; there will be no non-compostable plastic packaging. Everything sold from the farm comes in reusable glass bottles and jars that are cleaned and reused. 

“The packaging needs to hold the moisture and we don’t want to use plastic packaging for anything we make. We’ve played around with different packaging options, but nothing has been good enough so far,” Jess says. 

Milk from the Dreamview Creamery herd is used for milk and cream and the family is branching out to natural yoghurt, chocolate and more product development is in the pipeline.

The commitment to stay with environmentally friendly packaging is completely in line with Raglan’s ethos, and Jess believes that’s a big reason why they have been so successful. “That’s what I love about the Raglan people, they’re so locally and environmentally focused. Everyone here is so supportive,” she says. The creamery to date has stopped more than 150,000 plastic bottles from being wasted. 

They also sell honey made by a family friend and are always looking for new ways to support other local businesses. 

Even their farming practices have changed to be more environmentally friendly, with part of the farm used to rear beef to remove bobby calves. They started rearing beef around the same time they began bottling milk in glass bottles, with both ventures adding value and reducing wastage.

“We’re pretty much a dairy beef farm now. We try to look after the whole picture, not just the animals but the pasture too. Moving to beef helped us to do that, and we feel better about it,” Bronwyn says. 

With their expansion into bigger facilities and having a full team of staff, they now have space on the farm for other local businesses to work in. There is currently chocolate being produced on the farm, and a local gelato company that uses their milk will soon be producing products on the farm too. 

“It’s going to be a food hub. We’re in discussions about how we could go about doing milk powder and things like that so more local businesses can use our products, but we have no plans at the moment to do ice cream or things like that because we don’t want to step on the toes of other local businesses,” Bronwyn says.

“That’s what Raglan is about, it’s about working together, that’s what we love about the community,” Jess adds. 

The Hill family is involved in every part of the process; David and Bronwyn work on the farm and the creamery, Jess is the creamery manager, daughter Kathy manages the farm, and son Matt helped engineer the new processing facility.  

The team of 13 with their six delivery trucks keep busy. Six days of the week they deliver to Hamilton, and they’ve recently started delivering to Tauranga two days a week, plus supplying businesses and locals in the Raglan area. 

“Up here on the farm, no one is better than anyone else. This started as a family-run thing, and everyone is part of the family. We all work as one team, no one is superior to anyone else, that’s important to us,” Jess says. 

The family is excited to hit the five-year mark of being in business and they are eager to take on new opportunities to adapt and develop their product lines. 

“There’s so much potential, we just have to keep chugging along,” Bronwyn says.

For many in Raglan, the new products are always exciting, but nothing beats getting environmentally friendly, farm-fresh milk delivered straight to your door.

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