Business meetings used to mean warm offices, gallons of tea and coffee and talks of vision and strategy for the period ahead.
Now, however, I've swapped shiny shoes for mucky boots to be able to pet cows, sheep and goats. And instead of talking profit, losses and targets I'm now asking 'which of the sheep is your favourite' and 'do they all have names?' Oh how times have changed.
I was fortunate enough to visit Norton and Yarrow Cheese in Shillingford, Oxfordshire, recently where I was warmly welcomed by owners Fraser and Rachel who sold their first cheese in 2016 at a small farmer's market.
Fast forward to 2022 and they now have more than 100 goats (having started with 25 the day before Rachel gave birth to their first child) and produce two award-winning cheeses, Sinodun Hill and Brightwell Ash. The couple are clearly passionate about sustainable farming as well as high standards of animal welfare and you can tell they both love the change in lifestyle and what they are doing.
What I really admired about Fraser and Rachel was that in every area of their business, consideration is given to feasibility and everything is done with the welfare of the animals, and their team, at the centre. They're hoping to expand their herd of goats (currently made up of mainly purebred Anglo Nubian goats and some British Toggenburg) by a quarter this year alongside new facilities to allow them more room for cheese-making.
I was also introduced to two integral members of the crew, Ria who helps to make the cheese and Fern, one of the goat herders demonstrating that it really is a team effort.
Above all, the creamy goats cheese they produce is absolutely delicious! Sinodun Hill, our cheese of the month for February, is a ripened goats' cheese pyramid. The name comes from the 'proper' name' for the Wittenham Clumps which you can see from the farm.
The cheese is made using the traditional method of slow lactic coagulation and is then matured for up to 21 days. The result? A pyramid of happiness - a mousse like texture, delicate and sweet with golden, nutty undertones.
Their Brightwell Ash is a ripened goats cheese disc with an ash based natural rind. The silky ash covered-rind, gives way to a smooth, buttery consistency with a hint of citrus. So tasty!
I left Norton and Yarrow with a stack load of cheese, which I'll have at this month's markets; the Sinodun Hill also features in our monthly cheese box.
I also left slightly in awe of the couple; their commitment to their goats and how they're improving the living conditions of not only their herd, but others is admirable.
I absolutely love being able to go behind the scenes and find out the stories of the people behind some amazing British cheeses. It's the best part of what I do - we have some fantastic cheese makers in the UK and it's my pleasure to find out about them and bring you their incredible products. As always, I'd love to hear from you about any cheeses you have come across that you've enjoyed. Just email me firstname.lastname@example.org