Evansdale Cheese all started with a cow that gave too much milk.
In the late 1970s, Colin (now Colleen) and Lesley Dennison were living on a four hectare property in Evansdale, near Dunedin, with a Jersey cow that gave them more than enough milk for their whole family. Perplexed by what to do with it all, Colin set his mind to coming up with a solution.
“He went to the library and spent a lot of time there reading up about cheese making,” says their son, Pablo. “And then built the factory right by our house in Evansdale.”
Neither Colin nor any of the Dennisons had ever made cheese before, but a small detail like that wasn’t enough to stand in their way. Once the factory was up and running Colin set out with high hopes and got started on making the very first cheese.
“It was a Monterey Jack,” says Colleen. “And it was bloody awful.”
For anyone else, this might have made them consider whether going ahead with the business was a good idea, but for Colin it was simply an invitation to try harder.
Colleen provides different types of cheese to make wedding ‘cheese cakes’
Juggling a family and a business
While Evansdale Cheese was getting started, both Colin and Lesley also had their own careers to keep on track – teaching geography at the local high school and working as a nurse in the hospital.
“While I was managing the business and working at the school I’d have to get up at 5am to collect the milk, pasteurise it and prepare it for the cheesemaker before heading off for a full day of teaching,” says Colleen.
And if running a business and working full-time wasn’t enough, Colin and Lesley also had a large family to look after.
“Before we started Evansdale Cheese we had four children and a jersey cow,” says Lesley. “By 1980 we had six children, a business and our careers.”
What had started out as a bit of a side project quickly turned into a fully-fledged family business. Pablo and his brother Matthew began helping out after school, and soon Evansdale Cheese had grown so much they needed to upgrade to bigger premises, moving the factory up the road to Hawkesbury in 1997.
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