This week we are also featuring Janette Watson of Jannei Goat Dairy. Janette has been in the industry for 29 years and finds strength in her faith as well as women who have become leaders in their field such Maggie Beer and Margaret Fulton, and Nigella Lawson. Janette’s strong family bond with her parents has inspired her in her business practice and cements her sustainable work ethic. Jannei is one of the few Australian producers allowed to sell raw milk products, an achievement they are very proud of.
We will be highlighting some of Janettes beautiful goats cheeses, including the striking Bûche Noir and the Bentback Chevré.
My name is Janette Watson I and my husband Neil started Jannei Goat Dairy 29 years ago. We started with a desire to work on the land and provide an income from it for our family. We run a small farm with about 150 milking goats. We produce quality fresh, clean milk and from goats milk we make about 12 plus lines of product in five areas. Unpasteurised milk, fresh cheese, white mould matured cheese, semi-hard aged cheese and yoghurt. Our small Artisan business has become a well-known supplier of award winning goats milk cheese and raw packaged milk in the Sydney and Melbourne circles of food service and health food outlets.
Why have you agreed to participate in this project?
Because we are keen to build relationships with chefs and quality food outlets in Sydney as we have in the Blue mountains and Inner west. We are now providing the same service directly to Sydney.
Why are you passionate about being involved in these collectives?
Small unique businesses, banding together in marketing high end Australian produce helps get our message out to customers, it builds a brand of its own and lets people know where to find and buy our produce.
How did you become involved in this field?
Neil and I wanted to create a sustainable independent farm-based business. We also wanted to produce wholesome healthy food. Neil grew up running a dairy with his family in the 60’s and then studied and gained a rural science degree while working on rural properties. After we married he worked as an Agricultural High School teacher and they had Dairy Goats. We both explored sustainable and organic farming methods while our children where young -Neil added a sustainable diploma to his degree then and we both have worked on the farm together. I studied art and graphic design and gained insight into packaging and design before and during the time I met Neil in Sydney and so down the track after 8 years of being in farming and then during Neil’s teaching 1988-1995 we set up Jannei Goat Dairy at Lidsdale near Lithgow. I then turned my creative flair to resolving product, packaging and sales. While Neil focused on cheesemaking and farm management. It all just grew from there! We haven’t stopped!
If any, can you run us through some trials or tribulations you’ve faced based on your gender?
Being multi skilled and covering so many roles in a small business has always been a challenge. I surprised myself by being able to get over hurdles, even those outside my strengths and still don't like getting up early to go to Pyrmont Growers market for 10 years. Neil’s forte is getting up early not mine - and now drilling into my organisational methods to learn to use written procedure.
How do you think we can challenge these attitudes in future?
We have realised we need to grow - not just in size, but internally by adopting better methodology, always improving what we do and by using the combined intelligence of staff, key business advisers and having positive attitudes to change that improves our independence from the business and allows us to work on the business.
Are there any women in your industry that inspire you?
Because of the nature on being on the land I am often not involved with or near other ladies with a farming business. Lithgow business chamber does not have ladies on the land. I know cheese making couples that do work together like Meredith’s Julie Cameron and Milawa’s Annie Brown, and Hunter Valley Cheese Company’s Rose Curtis. We are similar ages ironically and have in the past enjoyed having a chat at cheese show times. Neil and I have visited their farms and businesses - and this has been great and inspired us to keep plugging away. I always gravitated to the ladies for a chat at cheese shows. It was great to learn how they handle issues. Also, at times I have called to get technical advice. We miss the Australian specialty cheesemakers shows which stopped after 2012 cheese show.
What are you most proud of?
It has been amazing seeing how we could create a brand together. Using Neil’s focus on getting work done and love of farming and being on the land with my creative detail and desire to get things right. We have created the Jannei Brand with multiple awards including a national Grand dairy award in 2008. Then in 2012 the champion goat cheese at the Australian Specialty Cheesemakers Show the last they had! We did this all on a small and often tight budget. The fact that we have quality, clean, fresh milk that makes our quality products. The milk is such an achievement. Our milk is not just fresh, it’s taken 20 years to work out how to keep the plate counts down and e-coli out of our milk. We are one of the few raw milk producers with an Australian licence to produce it.
What are your projections for the future?
We are actively growing our retail sales and wholesale sales. We have a new cellar door cheese tasting room. Our farm will become a destination for cheese sales and we keenly want to support wholesale sales to chefs in Sydney. Our pressed curd and spreadable tub curd continue to be an exceptional quality. 5 Silvers and a Bronze at the RAS 2018. Our Cheddar Chѐvre is becoming a destination cheese along with our Bentback and marinated cheese. As well as this we continue to work on our sustainable farm management with new water tanks and solar power improvements. We are also revamping our feeding regime and set up to improve the ease of feeding on site. We have a new Jannei back block, purchased last year to graze our dry goats on. This is so exciting! Developing this site is so much fun as we love the Aussie country life style.
The goats will love it too.