Yorkshire retailer hopes new site will help artisan cheese soar
A desire to educate more shoppers on where and how their food is produced was one of the driving factors behind The Courtyard Dairy’s move to develop a visitor attraction at a former falconry centre in North Yorkshire.
The award-winning cheese shop has moved to the much larger premises close to Settle, which feature a shop, maturing room, 30-cover cheese café and museum. The site also includes a cheesemaking room for hosting classes for the public and to develop experimental cheeses with small producers.
“We’ve moved so we can keep telling the story of proper farmhouse cheese,” said owner Andy Swinscoe, who started the business with wife Kathy five years ago. “I’d say 75% of people still don’t know the difference between pasteurised and raw milk or what farmhouse means. As a nation, we have a disjointed relationship with farming and big manufacturers take advantage of that. The farms we work with don’t have big sales teams and marketing budgets. They rely on us.”
He encouraged other specialist retailers to up their games when it came to working with genuinely small producers and explaining the provenance of food to customers.
“People open shops with good intentions, but then get influenced and start to change their ranges so that they are not so speciality any more,” he said. “It’s not enough to set up a cheese counter and just expect to sell cheese. It’s people that sell good cheese and that requires investment in staff training.”
The Courtyard Dairy has spent around £80k, including a £33k Rural Development Programme for England grant, to refurbish the new site. The design of the building and much of the work was carried out by the Swinscoes themselves. The site also includes 10 acres of land, which in the long term could be let to a smallholder and cheesemaker.
Andy Swinscoe was named Cheesemonger of the Year and won the Cheese Counter of the Year title at the 2013 World Cheese Awards, just a year after opening. His shop stocks around 30 cheeses made by mainly British farmhouse cheesemakers using raw milk, all of which the Swinscoes have personally visited. The retailer has also developed new cheeses with artisan producers in recent years.
This story was taken from the August edition of Fine Food Digest. Read more here.