Pecora Dairy was launched in 2011 by Cressida and her partner, Michael, with a dream of creating delicious, handcrafted sheeps milk cheese in the beautiful surrounds of the Southern Highlands. She's certainly managed to achieve that and we're excited to have a whole range of Cressida's cheeses available at The Stinking Bishops.
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My name is Cressida McNamara and I own and run Pecora Dairy ewes milk dairy and cheesery with my husband Michael. Our farm is in Robertson, in the Southern Highlands of NSW. We are a seasonal producer, milking for 10 months of the year. We give our ewes a break in the last months of pregnancy to allow them to rest. This season we are milking 130 ewes. We produce cheese and yoghurt with a focus on ethical and sustainable farming.
Why have you agreed to participate in this project?
I think its important for women to be involved in agriculture in Australia. Its an exciting time, with new technology becoming available which makes things easier, but also allows a greater control and scientific approach to be taken to specific enterprises. There is increasing interest from the public about the provenance of their food. Australia has the ability to innovate and grow superior produce.
Why are you passionate about being involved in these collectives?
Artisan cheesemakers are a small group in Australia, we are grateful to have the opportunity to get our story out there, so people understand that there is a wonderful alternative to European cheeses in this country. Australia is producing some really exciting, innovative cheese
How did you become involved in this field?
I grew up on a property, so I've always had a great connection to the outdoors. When we were first married we were living in Sydney. It became increasingly obvious to us that we were more suited to rural living. We made the move to a small property an hour out of Sydney. It was here that we developed the idea of sheep milking. As we both came from the wine industry, we had a passion for the science of food. for 6 years, we learned the art of cheese making, whilst building up our flock of East Friesians. We then bought our property in Robertson and became commercial cheesemakers. So, it was the long game to get to where we are now! 7 years of research and development.
If any, can you run us through some trials or tribulations you’ve faced based on your gender?
I think on the whole, Australia is a welcoming place for women to pursue their dreams. Having said that, agriculture is still a fairly male dominated field, and often people will direct questions about farming and sheep to my husband. Most are pretty happy to chat to me when he explains that I make most of the farming decisions. Recently, I've noticed more organisations promoting women in agriculture which is wonderful. Social media has become a fabulous way to highlight the outstanding contributions women are making to farming and agriculture.
How do you think we can challenge these attitudes in future?
I think we need to encourage more young women into agriculture. It a challenging pursuit, but then, everything that is worthwhile is..... Women also lend a different perspective to agriculture and farming to men. Having a strong female presence in the agriculture will benefit everybody.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of our girls and the systems we have created in our business. We entered sheep dairying at a time when we were told by so many people it wasn't a good idea. We persisted and now have a thriving business. Its hard to breed sheep up off a small base and it takes dedication and hard work. I would like to think we are making bench mark Australian sheep milk cheeses.
What are your projections for the future?
Excitingly, we have just been approved to make raw milk cheeses. We are the first dairy in Australia to do so. We will be releasing our raw milk semi hard, called "Yarrawa" and a raw milk feta, very soon. It has taken two years of consultation with the authorities and we are so proud to be leading the way. This is a real game changer for cheese makers in Australia.