Connage Highland Dairy is a traditional, fully organic business, situated on a family farm at Ardersier. The farm at Milton of Connage was started by father Hamish Clark almost 70 years ago, and continues to remain in the family today.
A family business in the truest sense of the word, brothers Callum and Cameron Clark, along with their wives Jill and Eileen, own Connage. Callum and Jill manage the cheese side of the business using their years of experience to produce a fully traceable quality end product – multi award-winning cheese. Cameron and Eileen undertake the majority of the work on the farm themselves, from breeding and managing the dairy herd to milking them.
The farm turned organic in 2002, and their organic dairy herd of 150 cows, mostly Holstein Friesian with Jersey crosses and Norwegian Reds and they graze the luscious clover pastures around the dairy and along the shores of the Moray Firth.
Not long after the farm converted to organic, the bottom fell out of the market a bit and they couldn’t find anyone to bottle organic milk in the Highlands. So they decided to diversify, and the best way to add value to milk was by making cheese.
A state-of-the-art cheese dairy was constructed in January 2006, and the team at Connage have been using traditional techniques to produce a range of organic, handcrafted vegetarian cheeses since then.
All their products are fully traceable, and provide excellent quality controls from ‘cow to cheese’. Assurances can be given for the highest standard of animal welfare and care for the cows, continuing the attention to detail into the cheeses.
Connage’s success could be partly down to a combination of climate, breeding and technique. The farm is in a micro-climate in the Moray Firth and the fields go right down to the sea. They grow all their own organic food for the cows, the grass is rich in clover, so it’s full of Omega 3 and the cheese is known for being creamy.
Connage sells direct from the Cheese Pantry at the dairy, which has a Visit Scotland five-star attraction award, where visitors can watch the cheese being made as well as meet the cows.
A number of Connage’s cheeses have won awards, and in 2019 their aged Gouda has won Best Scottish Cheese at both the Artisan Cheese Awards and the British Cheese Awards, as well as a Gold at the Royal Highland Show.
Jill, Callum and the team at Connage are passionate about contributing to the local economy, and offer a range of employment opportunities to local people, from front of house positions in the shop to cheese making roles in the cheese dairy.
Connage Highland Dairy is a fantastic example of successful diversification brought to fruition by hard work and a true belief in the product, as well as support and belief from the local community.