When Dreamview Creamery first dipped their gumboots into farm gate raw milk sales in 2017 they never dreamed the business would get as big as it has.
Owned and operated by the Hill family, the Raglan business recently issued Fonterra with a cease to supply notice.
Daughter, and creamery manager Jess says it’s an exciting step in their journey to run independently and the realisation of the dream idea she proposed to her parents, Dave and Bronwyn, to stop selling milk to Fonterra, bottle it themselves and sell locally.
“This is a really big step for us. We were considering doing it last year, and I’m probably kind of glad that we didn’t. During Covid it was actually quite good to be able to still send our excess milk to Fonterra.”
The soon-to-be released Dreamview yoghurt should take care of the milk normally supplied to Fonterra and Jess says they were only producing just enough excess milk to make it worth Fonterra’s while anyway.
“Fonterra came every second day and it kind of depended on what we were doing in the creamery that day as to how much milk would be left for Fonterra. But it got to the point where it was maybe 400 or 500 litres, and only just enough to warrant them coming to pick it up.”
Over the years they have moved to more sustainable practices, and from the very beginnings of Dreamview Creamery, the milk was sold in reusable glass bottles. In doing so, they have saved more than 150,000 plastic bottles that would have ordinarily been used to get the milk to the marketplace.
They will continue using glass for the yoghurt and Jess reckons they could be the first milk-based yoghurt to come in reusable glass jars.
When they started out selling MPI certified raw A2 milk from the farm gate the creamery was based in a converted shipping container and locals would drive up the windy farm driveway to pick up their supplies. However, as demand grew, they bought a refrigerated truck and started delivering to homes in Raglan.
They now deliver nearly 7,000 litres of A2 milk a week to cafes and shops in Raglan, Hamilton, Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. This meant hiring more staff and buying more trucks.
“It’s awesome to be able to provide part time work for locals,” she says.
Because the milk is now available pasteurised Dreamview can sell it anywhere, whereas their raw milk, by law, must be delivered door to door.
Raw milk does not go through the pasteurisation process so it must meet stringent Ministry of Primary Industries regulations.
Dave says there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get MPI certification and they are still required to test once a week for bacterium levels.
“The regulations are extremely strict but we have got really great results,” Dave says.
While MPI regulations prevent Jess from promoting the raw milk, she says it still makes up about 40 percent of their sales.
“They like that it’s milk the way nature intended it and they know where it’s from.”
Like most farming families, the Hill family grew up on raw milk and Bronwyn says she could taste the difference in the supermarket milk she would have to buy from time-to-time.
“I really notice a plastic taste in the milk.”
While Bronwyn says the highly processed, homogenised supermarket milk is basically pulled apart and put back together again to standardise it, raw milk will vary in flavour and content from farm to farm and cow to cow on a daily basis.
“People these days like to know where their produce comes from, how it’s made and that the animals are looked after,” she says.
And animal welfare is a priority; one of the biggest differences at Dreamview is they don’t have a bobby truck visit the farm.
The herd is pure Friesian and Jess says they have no trouble selling the year-olds as first-generation Kiwi cross milking cows.
“We keep every calf that is born on the farm. The cows that are having a baby for the first time have been mated with a recorded (Jersey) sire. We keep the calves on the farm until about a year-old and then they can be sold. They are popular with dairy farmers who buy the girls as replacements and then the boys we can sell on as beef cattle.”
Other sustainable farming practices the family have committed to over the years include significantly reducing their stocking rate and making use of their effluent pond to substantially reduce fertilizer requirements.
They are also propagating their own native trees and carrying out extensive riparian planting.
The Hills have farmed the rugged 300-acre property for over 20 years and began their Dreamview journey with a 250-cow dairy farm.
The farm overlooks the wild west coastline, with views of the Tasman Sea, Karioi maunga and is 10 minutes from the Raglan ‘CBD’.
It’s a place that has brought all the Hill siblings back home to work in the family business.
It was Jess who brought home the idea for the creamery while she was studying for a Bachelor of Agriculture at Lincoln University.
Jess worked at the Lyttleton Farmers Market every Saturday selling pasteurised milk in glass bottles for a local farmer. “I thought that Lyttleton had a similar demographic and culture to Raglan and we had such positive feedback it got me interested in doing it at home.”
She now lives in a relocated home on the property, which she has lovingly renovated.
Brother Matthew’s skills as a civil engineer were put to good use designing the new purpose-built creamery to replace the 20-foot container which served as the first creamery.
“We’re now in a 200-square metre creamery, and it’s just so much bigger and so much better. I’ve even got an office in there,” Jess says.
Sister Kathy came home last year after university and a stint working on a horse stud, and now manages the farm alongside farm manager Gary Gillies.
After just five years in the business, the Dreamview team has grown to include 11 staff, six refrigerated delivery trucks, a purpose-built creamery and a pasteurisation facility.
Jess is always on the lookout for ways to collaborate with local food producers; Dreamview milk is used by Raglan Gelato and a local home-cheesemaker, and every now and then they collaborate with Raglan Chocolate to produce a chocolate milk.
“We’re working towards other different products so we can utilize all the milk. Now we don’t have Fonterra we want to make sure we don’t waste any. We need to use as much as we can all the time.”
While Jess has been the driving force behind Dreamview Creamery from the beginning a look at their website lists Dave and Bronwyn as the bosses.
“We always try really hard to make it so they do less but there’s always something else to do. I would love for them to be able to take a step back. I feel like we get there and then something happens and we need them again. We could not do it without them.”
Jess jokes with her dad about retiring but just like the Hill children have returned home, Dave doesn’t intend on leaving.
“I said to Dad the other day, ‘you can retire sometime and, you know, buy a nice house in town or go somewhere else,’ and he’s like, ‘I’m never leaving the farm’.”
By Janine Jackson