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Monday 19 February 2018

Going back to her roots - swapping nursing for cheesemaking

Teresa Roche has swapped nursing for cheesemaking in her native Galway

Teresa Roche with the dairy herd on the family farm near Abbey, Co Galway. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Teresa Roche with the dairy herd on the family farm near Abbey, Co Galway. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Ken Whelan

It's some career move to go from the rigours of hospital intensive care units to the challenges of developing a new artisan cheese brand in the Galway countryside.

Yet for Teresa Roche, the transition will be complete when she launches her new Kylemore Farmhouse cheese this autumn.

The 37-year-old had been working in various hospitals abroad from Australia to New Zealand to the United States for over 14 years, but she always had at the back of her mind the notion of returning to develop a business on her home farm near Portumna in Co Galway.

"I had a keen interest in cheesemaking and while I was in New Zealand, I worked and lived in the Maori farming community in the Waikato region and this gave me a great insight into how to develop a ­business in food production," says Teresa.

"So when I came home for my usual two-week holiday in 2015, I decided to see if we could develop a cheese at the home farm and that two-week holiday became two years of studying cheese production and ­completing various mentoring and business courses run by the Galway local enterprise company and Musgrave's Food Academy Programme.

"During this time, I went to Switzerland and Nottingham to complete various cheesemaking courses.

"And I was helped all along the way by our neighbour and award-winning cheesemaker, Marion Roeleveld, who produces the Killeen cheese brand," she recalls.

The Roche family have been farming near Portumna since 1820 and converted their Kylemore House farm into a dairy enterprise in the 1960s. Parents Bertie and Julie, along with brother Brian, run the herd of 97 Friesian Holstein crosses and supply Arrabawn, while on the animal heath side Teresa's sister Sara is a vet.

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"Our raw material is our own milk which is made from only grass-fed cows and is a high-quality milk ­product which is fully traceable and Bord Bia Origin Green ­approved.

"Something I am proud of is that we have a low-carbon footprint on the farm," Teresa points out.

Distribution

The finishing touches are currently being made on the conversion of an outbuilding on the farm which will be used as a cheese production platform.

Teresa also has the backing of Sheridans Cheesemongers and the SuperValu supermarket chain on the commercial and distribution side of the business.

And so are the finishing touches to Teresa's "re-ruralification", as she has become a stalwart member of the West Women in Farming group and is secretary of the Galway Friesian Breeders Society.

But back to the business on hand, Teresa describes her new Swiss-type cheese as "a premium product" which will be launched in October.

"My plan is to start with a small production line this year and then build up and grow the business and cheese production incrementally.

"I hope to supply bespoke food outlets directly and to develop online sales," she adds.

It's a tense - or maybe that should be intense - time for Teresa as she takes her bow as Ireland's newest artisan cheesemaker.


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