From Farmhouse Kitchen To State-of-the-art Facility For Cashel Blue Cheese

By Sinead Goldsboro

By Sinead Goldsboro

As I drove to the Grubb’s farm the other day for the official opening of their new €6 million state-of-the-art facility for their Cashel Blue and Crozier Blue Cheese, I could not help but admire the beautiful scenery and trees that surround the area. I thought that the Grubb family and their neighbours are lucky people to live in such a place that has a certain touch of magic. On my arrival I could see that this magic came from the Grubb family with their charm, positivity and happiness that touches everybody who meets them.

The home of Cashel Blue Cheese is literally set in the rolling green hills of Tipperary as their new facility, which was designed by a heritage architect with the help of owners Louis and Jane Grubb, choose a split level design so that it would fit into the hill in the “Osiery Field” which is only two fields from the previous dairy.

The new dairy is next to the farm milking parlour in the heart of the rich paddock where the Pedigree Cashel Blue herd grazes. This allows the cheese makers and many others employed on the farm to walk or cycle to work from within the local community.

When Jane Grubb first created Cashel Blue back in 1982, using milk from the family farm’s own herd and a copper preserving pan belonging to her mother-in-law, little did she and her husband Louis know where that cheese would take them. I am sure at the time they did not think they would be inviting the Minister for Agriculture and Food Simon Coveney to open a €6 million facility which will allow the Grubb family to significantly increase production at the site. The farmhouse cheese dairy and farm employs 25 local people and produces 250 tonnes of cheese per annum, making it the largest farmhouse cheese producer in Ireland. The new dairy will allow them to double production. It is anticipated that production will grow to 320 tonnes by the end of 2012. New technology has been introduced to improve efficiencies in wrapping and turning of the family cheese and 50% of this new equipment was manufactured in Ireland but the traditional method of making the cheese remains the same.

Over 50% of the cheese is exported to the UK, France, Italy, Germany and the USA. Sarah told us at the launch that they had just sent some samples to Beijing in the hope of expanding to that market.

Louis Grubb welcomed us all to Beechmont Farm, near Fethard, with a history of the cheese and the decision to expand by building the new facility. He thanked his daughter Sarah and her husband Sergio Furno for their help in applying for the grant to Enterprise Ireland which was submitted at “literally one minute to six on the last day of applications for such a grant” according to Louis. Sarah and Sergio knew that their facilities at the time of the application would not be large enough to meet the demands for Cashel Blue and Sarah was concerned that the hard work of her parents would be lost to competition from other markets such as England if they did not expand. Cashel Blue is a unique recipe as it was the first softer style of blue cheese to be made in either Britain or Ireland and they have set the standard for this style of cheese as they frequently win Gold in the Modern British Blue’s competitions.

Sarah then spoke fondly of the hard work and long days involved in the initial set-up of the business and how Jane referred to the cheese as “my blue”. Sarah also spoke about going to Fethard Country Market as a young girl selling the cheese and the community that comes with the market and food producers.

John McKenna, from The Bridgestone Guide, fist visited the farm in 1989 and was hugely impressed with the cheese and the process of making it. He commented on the fact that the cheese is still made in that same way today and how we could all see the cows that produced the milk, or as he called it, “magic liquid”, for the cheese, which is something he said you would not see in any other country in the world as most food processing facilities are many miles away from their farms. John spoke warmly of the Grubb family and how he had heard earlier in the day heard that the new facility was known locally as “Louis Shed”.

Speaking at the opening of the new facility Minister Coveney said: “Cashel Blue has established a distinctive identity among consumers. It is impressive to see a family enterprise taking in high quality milk from family farms and making a unique product for marketing at home and away.

“It fits so well with the Harvest 2020 targets for the milk sector and for speciality foods. The Grubb family is to be congratulated on their vision and their commitment to achieving their plans. I am particularly pleased to see completion of an important project supported under the Dairy Investment Fund, which is operated by Enterprise Ireland with funding from my Department.

“Investment in this state of the art dairy will enable the Grubb family to introduce Cashel Blue and its story to more customers. I hope that many of these, in turn, will be tempted to visit the country which produces such fine cheese.”

Minister Coveney spoke of the importance of preserving and promoting farmhouse businesses and that he wanted to see the Cashel Blue story replicated all over Ireland. He said that “food is not just about big producers, it is also about all Irish farmhouse cheese producers along with Irish beef and lamb farmers”. The Minister will be visiting Algeria and China in the coming months promoting Irish food. He praised Bord Bia and the Irish Dairy Board for their involvement in the promotion and development of the Irish Food Industry.

The new dairy was blessed by Dean Knowles of Cashel and Cannon Ryan P.P. of Killeanule. Charles Lamb of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland gave praise and thanks for the facility being built safely and accident free.

The family has also invested €750,000 in environmental measures across the farm and cheese dairy, including many storage facilities, reed beds and a proprietary water treatment plant, Louis Grubb explained. “We are proud to produce an internationally recognised speciality cheese,” he added.

His daughter, Sarah Furno, added: “Vision, drive and a passion for cheese has brought us this far; it is exciting to see where we will go with the increased production capability of our new speciality cheese dairy.