The future of the Yellison Farm Goats Cheese brand has been assured following the acquisition of the business, its entire goat herd, milking and cheese-making equipment by a North Yorkshire farming family.
Sharron and Ed Parker have now relocated the business lock, stock and barrel from its former home at Carleton, near Skipton, a few miles down the Aire Valley to their Sire Bank Farm in Bradley, where they are now in production and fulfilling orders.
Yellison Farm Goats Cheese was established in 2003 by the late Steve Akrigg and was reluctantly put on the market when he developed a serious illness, from which he died on Christmas Day last year.
Mr Akrigg’s 24-year-old son Jonathan, who was running the business, assisted by his partner Lucy Pollard, are helping the Parkers and familiarising them with all aspects of the operation following the takeover.
The milking parlour, dairy and cheese production unit have now been installed and the Parkers are currently milking 72 predominantly Saanen and Anglo Nubian goats - their milk is renowned for cheese making.
They also have a billy goat, around 30 followers and 30 kids, among them some cute and cuddly new additions since the herd arrived on their 40-acre hill farm at the end of February.
“We are up and running and while it’s still early days and there’s still plenty of work to do we have retained all existing customers and are meeting current order requirements,” said Mrs Parker.
She is a fully qualified mechanical engineer who formerly managed the tool rooms at Kingfisher (Lubrication) in Leeds, while her husband Ed also runs his own structural engineering business, Emerald Engineering Consultancy.
The couple have three children – Georgia, 13, a pupil at Skipton Girls High School, Joseph, 11, who attends South Craven School, Cross Hills, and five-year-old Archie, who is at Bradley Primary School.
Mrs Parker, who is at the helm of the cheese making business, said that with all three children at school, she had been looking for a new challenge in life. She is already fully involved with the family cattle, sheep and poultry farm with her husband and his parents Bill, now 81, and Jennifer Parker.
The farm specialises in Hereford-cross cattle, with a 30-strong herd of cows, raises Texel-cross-Mule sheep from 50 breeding ewes and has a flock of 200 Warren hybrid hens, with the eggs sold in the local village shop.
Mrs Parker said she remained keenly aware of Mr Akrigg’s vision in building up a successful award-winning business over ten years, which saw Yellison Farm Goats Cheese develop a national customer base and an excellent reputation among leading chefs, high profile hotels, restaurants, pubs and other retail and wholesale customers.
She said: “Steve invested so much of his time in both establishing and developing the business. It was a true passion in his life, a real labour of love and one that I am determined to continue and further develop in his memory. I already share much of his passion and enthusiasm.”
The business continues to produce two types of goats cheese, a light and creamy log in two sizes and potted Crowdie, a soft spreadable cheese made to a Scottish recipe. Production has actually increased in the short time since the Parkers took over, with milk output currently around 600 litres per week, with two weekly cheese runs producing some 180kg of product.
Both cheeses have won awards at the Great Yorkshire Show and Mrs Parker said she hoped to pick up more awards in the future to “ensure we’re doing it right in terms of quality and to further boost the excellent reputation and pedigree of the brand.”
There are also major plans for development and diversification. Mrs Parker explained: “We are looking to grow the herd naturally and eventually hope to be milking 120-plus goats, producing our own haylage on the farm to feed them. This will allow us to increase both production and capacity and expand our customer base across all target markets.
“We will also be to seeking to develop and expand our cheese types and ranges, with different flavour variations of existing soft log products, together with the introduction of an own-brand hard cheese similar to a Stilton.
“Goats milk is also used in ice cream-making and in beauty products such as soaps and shampoos. In the longer term, we shall certainly consider diversifying into these areas by investing further in the business. That was always going to be Steve’s next step and we would like to think we can help make his dream come true.”
One local retailer continuing to sell Yellison Farm Goats Cheese is award-winning Keelham Farm Shop in Thornton, Bradford, which remains on track to open its second farm shop in Gargrave Road, Skipton, this autumn.
The shop’s Victoria Robertshaw said: “The quality and taste of the cheese is just as good. We always support passionate local producers and wish Sharron and her team every success in their new venture.”
Leading national food wholesaler Wellocks of Lomeshaye in Lancashire, renowned for sourcing quality food from ardent local producers and farms throughout the country, also remains a major supplier of Yellison Farm Goats Cheese.
The company’s Ashley Singleton, who deals direct with Yellison’s, said: “Everything we order from them arrives on time. They have never let us down and the quality and superior taste of the cheese remain unchanged. It is used by our top-end customers from Gleneagles in Scotland down to Bournemouth on the south coast, among then two and three-starred Michelin chefs.”
Pic caption 1: Sharron and Ed Parker, joined by children Georgia and Joseph, get close up and friendly with some of their new goats. Young Archie was otherwise engaged.
Pic caption 2: Say cheese! Sharron Parker gets to grips with her new cheese making business.
Pic caption 3: Say cheese! Sharron Parker, assisted by Lucy Pollard, gets to grips with her new cheese making business.
Pic caption 4: Sharron Parker with the new kids that have arrived on the block since she took over the Yellison Farm Goats Cheese business.