Zorra Township’s Golspie Dairy has been around for many years but until recently most people have never heard of it. Thanks to some slick new self-serve equipment and cheese making, the company has been added to the impressive list of retail food destinations in Oxford County.
“My husband’s great, great grandparents started milking cows back in 1874 so we are the fifth generation running the dairy farm. In 2022 was the first time we started actually processing the milk to sell on farm directly to customers,” says co-owner Marja DeBoer-Marshall.
She says the shift to retail and cheese is the product of her interest in exploring the direct consumer market. “I married Laurence seven years ago and I was interested in dairy processing, specifically cheese making, and at that time there were some other farms starting to do the same so I looked into it and thought it would be a good way to add value to the product we were already creating.” She adds that after a tremendous amount of research and business planning, they finally decided to give it a try.
The idea for the vending machines was a direct result of her research into the retail market and now consumers can use cash, a debit or credit card to buy fresh milk, chocolate milk, or cheese. “We were looking at other small farms in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and there were a lot of farms putting in these milk dispensing machines. They were really popular in Germany and Switzerland for decades and were also taking off in the U.K.” Marja says she saw a media story about a farm in British Columbia three or four years ago that installed a machine and that really sparked the idea that it was possible to do it in Canada. “We decided to go for it and figure out how to make it work on our farm. We did get some help from a farm in Cape Breton who installed the same machine we have.” The milk self-serve machine was manufactured in Switzerland and cost nearly $40 thousand.
The retail operation and self-serve machines have been a hit with the local consumer base so far and Marja believes their unique setting is what attracts customers. “People have really enjoyed it. Its kind of a fun way to get milk. We have had all positive feedback a lot of people like the flexibility of having the machines open seven days a week and for longer hours. If they aren’t able to make it to a retail store, they are still able to fill up their bottles with milk.”
Both the white and chocolate milk are what is called whole milk and has a fat content of 4.2 per cent. Marja understands there are many lower fat options on the market and people should purchase what they want. “Ultimately it comes down to taste preference. People who like a creamier milk are definitely enjoying what we are producing. It is the exact same milk fat percentage as it comes out of the cows. The only processing step for the whole milk between the milk getting collected in our barn is we put it through our pasteurizer and then it goes into the machine.”
The dairy is currently producing a young, fresh cheese that Marja says provides versatility in anyone’s kitchen. “Our ‘Crowdie’ is our fresh cheese so its similar to a cream cheese. We use our whole milk when making it, so you end up with a fluffier, more spreadable product that still has that tart flavour so its great for bagels, toast, or a lot of people have been using it on crackers or incorporating it into their favourite dip recipes in place of sour cream or cream cheese.” She adds the cheese is based on an old Scottish recipe for a similar type of product.
The fresh cheese is just the beginning for Golspie as they have plans to add aged cheeses into their array of retail products. “We are just working on getting our cheese vat going so we will be able to offer fresh curds and we will be working on more of our aged cheeses which will be available in the spring and summer. They are going to be British style aged cheeses so if you are familiar with that type of cheddar it will be a nice crumbly, hard cheese with a bit of a sharp tang to it.” She adds these types of cheeses are always best after they have been aged for a good amount of time. “You want to age them at least six months but the older the better so they will just keep getting better the longer you wait.”
As for anyone having trouble navigating the vending operation after retail hours, Marja says to just give her a ring. “If anyone is a bit nervous about trying out self-serve machines, I have my phone number posted in the self-serve area so if you should encounter any problems whatsoever, people can phone me, and I will run right over if I can’t answer their question over the phone. We want you to have a good experience and enjoy our milk!”
The processing and retail plant is located next to the homestead and farm just south of Zorra Township Road 45 and Oxford County Road 74, just minutes away from East Zorra-Tavistock and Woodstock. For more information go to the Golspie Dairy website at https://golspiedairy.ca/.