We waited until 2015 to get organic certification on our cheese company. We wanted to get our cheese certified because there weren’t that many organic cheeses available in the UK so it does make your products stand out.
Background: Sandra’s grandfather Garnet Sutcliffe started dairy farming at Pextenement in 1924. His two sons Ronald and Norman later took over and in 1998, Sandra left her job to work on the farm too. In 2008, Sandra’s partner Carl left his career in IT to help set up the Pextenement Cheese Company. The ‘pex’ part of the name is thought to refer to pig farming and ‘tenement’ derives from a time when the farm housed 10 families who worked the land, according to the 1901 census.
Why did you choose OF&G to work with? Carl said: “We were officially certified organic by 2005. OF&G was chosen because they certified many other dairy companies and we felt they would have the relevant knowledge and experience. It was a pretty straight-forward process. Soon after we started up our cheese company and by 2015 that side of the business was certified organic too.”
Why did you become certified organic? “Sandra’s grandfather had always farmed using organic practices, avoiding chemicals and artificial fertilizers for example, so we felt that we should go through the certification process and make that official. There was also the plummeting milk price in the 1990s and one way to overcome that was to go organic and offer something different to customers.
“We waited until 2015 to get organic certification on our cheese company – which was when all six of our cheeses were ready for market. We wanted to get our cheese certified because there weren’t that many organic cheeses available in the UK so it does make your products stand out.”
How was the process of getting certified? “In my previous life working in IT, I was used to lots of form filling and audits – so that prepared me for the requirements of organic certification. The organic certification process is complex and it can be tricky to get your head around but OF&G are good at making it as straight forward as possible. They offered lots of information. The actual inspections are in-depth and lengthy but it all works well and we’ve been really happy with OF&G.
What are the challenges of becoming organic?“There are challenges. Sourcing cattle feed and other products was a little tricky because you have to make sure they are compliant with the organic standards. Once you’ve got those things in place though, it’s not so bad. It makes you think really carefully about everything you’re using on the farm, which can only be a good thing.”
Where do you sell your organic cheese? “We spend a lot of time selling at farmers’ markets all over the place. We also attend three Food Assemblies which gives us a chance to talk to customers face-to-face. The collections take place in the heart of the community. As everything is pre-ordered via the website there is no waste and it’s easy to keep track of sales thanks to automated accounting information.”
Tel: 07725 517934
Address: Pextenement Farm, Eastwood, Todmorden, West Yorkshire, OL14 8RW.