The Winner of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW’s President’s Medal is...
With the evening fireworks of the Sydney Royal Easter Show exploding in the background, guests sat down to a dinner designed by Sydney Showground Executive Chef Tim Browne. Wines were matched by food and wine aficionado, and Selector contributor, Lyndey Milan OAM and NSW Governor General David Hurley was in attendance; this was an auspicious affair.
Anticipation filled the air as the finalists for the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW’s 13th Annual President’s Medal waited for the winner to be announced.
Since 2006, The President’s Medal has represented the ultimate award in agricultural excellence. Unique in that it is not awarded solely on taste; the Medal also recognises a product’s overall financial, social and environmental integrity, along with innovative and sustainable practices through the entire production cycle.
The finalists are drawn from Sydney Royal Champions from throughout the year and it is Australia’s premier food and beverage award.
Just when the finalists could bear the suspense no longer, the moment arrived. From a group of six esteemed producers, the winner of the 13th Annual President’s Medal was declared as Meredith Dairy.
the winning formula
Far from the bright lights of the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the plains south-east of Ballarat in Victoria are home to some of Australia’s most dependable farmland.
Just outside the town of Meredith, an entirely new industry has emerged, which began as an artisanal craft of goats cheese, wrought from a hand-reared flock.
Today, Meredith Dairy cheeses are stocked nationwide, from fine food specialists to big-box supermarkets.
This passion project for Julie and Sandy Cameron has reaped enormous dividends as a reward for their dedication and unflinching commitment to producing exceptional cheese.
Seen from the perspective of its triple-bottom-line attributes, Meredith Dairy is simply remarkable. From their investment in solar power, bio-generated hot water, and externalised re-use of all waste streams, to their employment of parents with school-aged children, to developing new methodologies for processing curd to enable this nascent industry to thrive.
Yet the most impressive element of the Meredith Dairy story is the management of the flocks themselves. To this end, Julie and Sandy make a unique and notable partnership. Julie is a keen self-taught cheesemaker, while Sandy is an accomplished vet with an advanced interest in the field of genomics.
Significant investment in researching and documenting the gene pool of their herds has helped Meredith Dairy identify attributes for passivity, milk production and disease resistance.
Produce the best goats, from whom you can get the best milk, to produce the best cheese. This strategy has the future interests of both the business and the industry in mind.
Additional land has been acquired on nearby properties to enable the growth of silage, making Meredith Dairy more resistant to climatic whims that can affect feed prices, while also giving certainty about both availability and feed quality.
With a view towards even greater financial stability and potential growth, Meredith Dairy has teamed up with university researchers to develop an Australian standard for goat meat. Such codes exist for lamb and beef, yet not for goat, a limiting factor that aggregates all goat meat at a uniform commoditised price, irrespective of quality.
Yet of all the programs Julie and her team have undertaken, none has been more consequential than their willingness to invest in local farmers. Individual landholders are contracted to keep Meredith Dairy herd, and harvest the milk, giving them the opportunity not only to earn secure financial returns in the immediate future, but also to potentially earn equity in the longer term. This idea could radically reshape the financial and social fabric of the district for the better. And that resonates soundly with the Camerons’ philosophy.
From new specially-designed sheds, to precise monitoring of every batch and product, to automatic milking machines that reduce infection or damage to the goats, they take the broadest possible approach to managing their business.
From the perspective of what the President’s Medal sets out to ascertain, Meredith Dairy is archetypal.