Posted: 17/06/2022

Treats from the east

Cheesemakers are a rare breed in Norfolk, but Mrs Temple’s has been at it for more than two decades

Mrs Temple’s Cheese celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. Or at least that’s what a double page feature in the Eastern Daily Press in March reported. But when FFD spoke to owner Catherine Temple a few weeks later for this article she admits that wasn’t entirely accurate. The business was actually founded 21 years ago.

“It’s a bit embarrassing, but when the local paper rang up to say they wanted to do an article on our twenty years, I thought I’d better not argue with them,” she confesses.

Mrs Temple’s started in June 2001 when Temple and her husband Stephen returned from Africa to help on the family farm in North Norfolk. The couple had been working in Malawi (he as a research engineer; she as a pharmacist) but Copys Green Farm in Wighton was “in a mess”, says Temple.  

“The milk price was less than it cost to produce. I looked at what we could build on and we had a dairy herd in a tourist area. People locally were making ice cream, yoghurts and bottled milk, but not cheese, and it was the beginning of things like food miles, farmers’ markets and ‘local’ food.”

Temple came across a Specialist Cheesemakers Association handbook and, on a whim, called the number on the back. She was promptly invited to a conference in Shrewsbury the next day.

“I met so many people there, from places like Bath Soft Cheese and Errington’s in Scotland,” she says. “In the queue for the ladies, I met [cheesemaking teacher] Kathy Biss and the owners of [Cumbria cheesemaker] Thornby Moor. By the time I’d got to the end of the line, I’d persuaded them to take me on as an apprentice.”

After several work experience stints and courses, Temple started making fresh cheese and mozzarella to sell at the local farmers’ market, and the business grew from there.

Today, it is best known for Binham Blue. It produces 34 tonnes of the soft blue annually but it also makes Camembert-style Copys Cloud, Walsingham cheddar and Wells Alpine. Not that you’re likely to see them outside East Anglia. 

“95% of our cheese is sold between here and Ipswich,” she says. “We’ve never been able to make enough.”

When the Temples took over the farm, there was a herd of prize-winning Holsteins, but this was replaced with Brown Swiss cows because of their richer milk and stronger constitutions. The couple has also pioneered sustainable farming techniques, from planting drought-tolerant, nitrogen-fixing alfalfa in the pastures to growing broad beans to feed the cows, instead of bought-in soya.

They also installed an anaerobic digester in 2008, which turns cow muck and whey into electricity, although Temple admits it’s a temperamental piece of kit that has pushed Stephen’s engineering skills to the limit.

“We never go on holiday because the AD is always broken. It’s as stroppy as anything.”

Despite the challenges, the business’s self-sufficiency has proved to be a blessing, partially insulating it from soaring costs.

“We’re in a much better position than a lot of other farmers,” she says. “So many are at their wit’s end. There won’t be many small family farms left at this rate. It’s the cheese that has kept us going all this time.”

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