Karen Lindsay runs her business - Little White Goat Cheese - from her farm in Wamuran. She has about 60 goats, 20 of which are milking goats. Karen makes cheese from the goat’s milk that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she sold to high-end restaurants, mostly on the Sunshine Coast, and some IGAs. She used to make soap from the milk, but her enterprising 13-year-old granddaughter is now running that business for pocket money.
Karen has experienced and overcome many challenges with her farming business over the years. Despite these difficulties, Karen said her business was “doing ok” before the COVID pandemic. It was growing. She used to sell her produce by word of mouth to restaurants, literally knocking on doors, and had featured her farm on television shows, such as The Great Southeast. She had just lined up business with airlines and cruise ships when the COVID crisis struck.
The crisis led to the closure of the travel and the restaurant industry, having an instant flow-on impact on Little White Goat Cheese. Karen’s business interest selling her product for use in airline and cruise ship catering was put on hold and she lost 99 per cent of her restaurant clientele. Her sales essentially stopped; however, Karen did not. She still had to continue to care for her goats and find a way to buy grain and feed.
Karen’s response to the COVID crisis was to diversify and switch to a sideline product – freeze-dried goat feta cheese.
Karen’s response to the COVID crisis was to diversify and switch to a sideline product – freeze-dried goat feta cheese. A friend had mentioned the concept early in the year and when the pandemic hit, she gave it a try. Karen describes her freeze-dried feta as: “a beautiful product,” with a shelf life of 18 months. It is gluten free and lactose free. Karen advertised her first batch of freeze-dried feta on the Facebook group Buy From the Bush and it sold out in one day.
Karen has a strong supportive business network. She collaborates with many local produce businesses, as well as the chefs that use her produce. The businesses in Karen’s network promote her cheese, and cross promote each other’s products. Mandy Schultz of LuvaBerry sells Karen’s cheese on her Farmgate website and Karen sells her produce at two of the local Reko Ring sales.
The Reko Ring is an online farmers’ market system where local products are advertised, sold, and paid for and then collected by customers at a location set up for an hour each week. These Moreton Bay region Reko Rings were launched on 30 May, via Facebook, by local producer Jacki Hinchy in response to COVID restrictions.
Since COVID restrictions eased, Karen again sells her product to restaurants and to private chefs, who also promote Little White Goat Cheese produce used in their gourmet dishes. Her goat milk product sales are increasing, so much so that she sources extra goats’ milk as needed from another goat farm. Her freeze-dried product is increasing in demand with interest from Australian dairy exporters to China and Singapore.
As for Little White Goat Cheese, Karen will continue selling the freeze-dried line of cheese and buying milk from goat farmer Peg when Karen’s milk runs out. When the travel industry opens again, she will follow up on business with airlines and cruise ships. As her business keeps growing, Karen plans to employ people to do the packaging and deliveries.
Karen has an inherent resilience and has learned from experience: “We’re farmers, so every day is a challenge. We’re used to crises. We’ve been through drought, flooding rain, fire – we’ve got through it; we can get through this.”
When crisis hits, Karen advises: “Just go with it. Keep paddling.”