Cheese company plans cafe
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
ONLY two months after moving to larger premises, a dale cheesemaking company is looking to expand.
Jonathan and Allison Raper, who run the award-winning Teesdale Cheesemakers, moved their business and home from Rokeby to Pond Farm, Copley, in January, to gain extra space for their dairy so they could increase production.
Now the couple are hoping to expand their rural enterprise so they can organise dairy tours and cheese tasting events, as well as create a cafe within redundant farm buildings. The couple have submitted plans to convert a single storey byre adjacent to the dairy into a cafe, kitchen and events room. Mrs Raper said: “The idea is to be able to host cheese making tours and tasting events and to do that we need a space adjacent to the dairy.
“The buildings are ideal and already here, but they would need work. Though we have just submitted the plans to the council, they and Visit Durham have been so supportive and helpful in getting us this far.”
The couple currently spend two days making cheese, then another two full days meticulously washing all the equipment before carefully packing up all the cheeses and heading out to markets and events.
Mrs Raper added: “We both come from a farming background and we would love to be able to produce a traditional ploughman’s lunch at our own cafe – a good creamy cheese with locally made bread, pickle and the like.”
“By creating the cafe and events room we want to be able to organise dairy tours and enable people to get a flavour of what is involved in the process.
“We’ll probably only do small tours, of about eight people, as we don’t have that much space, but I want to make sure everyone can handle a curd.”
Mrs Raper added if plans are approved they will incorporate a small shop within the cafe, allowing them to sell their cheeses and other local produce. She said: “If we can sell directly to the public from home and be able to cut back in doing so many craft markets, it means we can spend more time at home.”
They couple hope they will have the cafe and events room up and running by October. They are already looking to start hiring more staff to help increase cheese production.