An eye on sheep's milk

Milk of the Future

With 30 million sheep across the country, why is it that New Zealanders find the idea of milking them bizarre?

Craig PritchardMassey lecturer Craig Prichard is on a mission to promote sheep dairy as a viable form of agribusiness in New Zealand. “People from eastern and southern Europe take this as normal. I think that if New Zealand had been settled by southern Europeans rather than northern Europeans we would have had a sheep dairy industry from the beginning.”

Recently the concept of milking sheep has caught the attention of large agribusiness company, Landcorp. The state-owned enterprise purchased 2,500 East Friesian sheep last year for trial milking. It has also engaged Massey’s Riddet Institute in experimenting with sheep’s milk products such as butter and ice cream and is in discussion with FoodHQ, a collective of New Zealand’s foremost food science organisations. “We’re a lot more experimental in what we’re eating,” believes Craig, “therefore we can be more experimental with what we can potentially sell to people.”

There are a lot of lifestyle blocks on the fringes of New Zealand cities. I’d like to see us make better use of that land

Craig belongs to a group of Massey researchers called Ewe Can Dairy who support the New Zealand sheep dairy industry. In February the team ran the Ewe Milk Products and Sheep Dairying Conference. “It’s part of trying to think through issues around alternative dairy industries,” explains Craig.

Sheep milkingCraig isn’t just watching the industry’s development from the sidelines. “I milk sheep myself in a very rustic, low-budget, low-impact way,” he says.

“It’s important to understand the business at grassroots level. There’s a lot of knowledge that comes from day-to-day milking and getting involved with the sheep.”

Craig’s lifestyle block exemplifies an alternative business model for New Zealand dairy practices. “There are a lot of lifestyle blocks on the fringes of New Zealand cities. They mow them and might have a few raggedy old sheep.

We’re a lot more experimental in what we’re eating

I’d like to see us make better use of that land.” He proposes that a sheep dairy business could involve a number of small holders getting together with small flocks, which could be milked collectively.

“The challenge is to find business models that connect people to the industries. Maybe some aspects of fair and equitable trade might find their way into this kind of business. There are lots of things you can do on a small scale by connecting people to the products they consume.”

Free range sheep...As for the taste of sheep’s milk – “It was the biggest challenge to get my twelve-year-old son to eat some sheep’s milk products,” says Craig. “It’s that little reaction where people go, ‘I’m not really sure about that’. We need to attach meanings to sheep’s milk products that are positive for the industry.” Sheep’s milk has a similar flavour to cow’s milk, only much richer. With the increase in dairy product varieties in supermarkets, sheep’s milk could easily make the shelves.

Order your dream salad here!

The Green House Effect

Rolling up their sleeves after months of work, six passionate ladies have opened the doors of their new adventure. The new salad bar known as ‘The Green House’ reflects the idea of ‘eat well, live well’ and in the few months since its opening it has become an iconic spot, with people lining up in the streets to escape fast food.

Salad“We needed to do something for ourselves,” says Gill Yorke, the manager. “The girls talked about setting up a mobile salad and smoothie van, but we decided that was too much hassle, so instead we planned on moving to The Square in Palmerston North.” Along with Gill, Emily Blanchett and Lucy Gertsgraser share ownership in the bar, while their friends Kate Bryant, Chloe Hes and Emma Hintz are the passionate workers.

For many the name The Green House will be familiar thanks to social media, with its Facebook page experiencing a meteoric rise before the shop had even opened. “Emily, Lucy and Chloe do most of the Facebook and Instragram stuff, they know so many people because they all grew up here. All their friends shared the page and it just spread. I think we put ourselves on Facebook on the Tuesday and we thought, ‘Oh we will have 500 likes by Friday’. We had 2,000 likes over two weeks before we even opened. Social media is just insane.”

People are starting to realise that what you put in is what you get out. It’s all about food. You have only one body and one life, you might as well look after it.

The shop itself has been as successful as its Facebook page, with crowds of customers every lunchtime. Gill believes that people are welcoming an opportunity to make better choices with their diets. “Slow change has been coming in the last couple of years, and people are getting sick of unhealthy takeaways,” says Gill. “People are starting to realise that what you put in is what you get out. It’s all about food. You only have one body and one life, you might as well look after it.”

Welcome!Popular with their visitors, and adding to the “simple and natural” approach, is the lack of strange or pretentious names for their food. “Lots of people comment on us not having funny names! One person commented on the smoothies, making sure we had got all the ‘right’ colours.” For Gill, her favourite salad has gone from The Caesar to The Thai Beef, with the Green No.1 smoothie going down smoothly as a lunchtime dessert.

“We are also trying to do everything locally. All our products are from Riverlea, Davis Trading and Preston’s Master Butchers. We are local, we like to use local produce and have a sense of community. I think it’s quite nice to have that these days, it’s nice to have local involvement.”

Not a group to rest on their laurels, the ladies are already pondering the future. “We are looking into the possibilities of franchising, to see what’s involved and how to do it and that’s quite exciting. At the moment it is great for the girls, they are only twenty-two and having their own business and that experience is huge. If we can grow it that way that will be pretty cool.”

We had 2,000 likes over two weeks before we even opened. Social media is just insane.

Mount Maunganui, Wellington and Napier are at the top of their list for potential franchise locations, but there are a few ideas farther from home as well. “The Greek island, Santorini, we’d like to do! That would be the dream, to open up one in Santorini. North Carolina in America is another, one lady said she wanted one in America. But we will start with New Zealand!”

Dr Dave Baldwin

The Flying Doctor

“My great strength is that I ended up a doctor by accident; it wasn’t until I was nineteen or twenty that I had any concept of what I wanted to do.”

The Flying Doctor, Dave Baldwin, has been in the business for more than twenty years now and certainly has no intention of slowing down any time soon. With a medical centre, the Healthy Bastards campaign, the Bulls Flying Doctor Service and his Aerospace Research Centre Dave is kept on his toes, with no two days ever the same.

KnowledgeBrought up north of Porirua in a little fishing village, in his youth Dave wasn’t really one for study. “My mother has always been a big influence in my life, and she always cried when I saw her because she wanted me to be the big family hope. So after a year and a half of truck driving and possum hunting I made a deal with her. ‘If you stop bawling I’ll go back and get my Bachelor of Science, but after that I want to be a deer culler’, and she agreed.”

Dave could see the wisdom in his mother’s eyes. “I wasn’t dumb, I just wasn’t focused. Once I got going I started to get A grades. So when people asked what I wanted to do with my life they thought I was joking when I said a deer culler. Then I thought about being a doctor, it sounded like a good job with good pay.”

You begin to realise that a lot of people dying are dying early because of self-neglect.

After his Bachelor of Science Dave went on to do eight years of study to qualify as a doctor and began training as a cardiologist at Palmerston North Hospital. However, the jets flying overhead proved distracting, so Dave joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force, becoming a Skyhawk pilot and medical officer. It was there that he developed his expertise in aviation medicine. After three years he left the RNZAF to own and run the medical centre in the nearby town of Bulls.

“General practice was the first start to my career, but the spark was whether it was possible to tie in the mountains and possibly flying. I met an old doctor at a conference whose job it was to be a GP doing house calls in his boat. I thought, ‘Hey bro, that’s me!’.

Loving the job“Every pilot needs a medical to fly and the validity of it depends on whether you have a commercial or private licence and how old you are. A private pilot under forty’s medical lasts five years whereas a commercial pilot over forty needs to be renewed every six months.”

Dave began to build up his clientele by recording pilots’ expiry dates on a computer recall system. “A month before they were due I would ring them saying your medical is due, do you want to do it with us? Now after twenty-five years they all do.”

For three weeks every month Dave is flying high, in and out of his base at Palmerston North Airport. “The first week it is down the West Coast to Milford Sound then across to Wanaka and Mount Cook. The second I am in the Motueka, Nelson area and the third week I fly to Blenheim and the Marlborough area. I might do twelve pilot medicals on the airstrip then shoot out to a farm to do some more. But it’s all part of the dream.”

The other major ‘mission in life’ for Dave is his politically incorrect ‘Healthy Bastards’ campaign. It first began fifteen years ago and today Dave tours the country talking about how men can best manage their health.

I met an old doctor at a conference whose job it was to be a GP doing house calls in his boat. I thought, ‘Hey bro, that’s me!’

“I was working away at the general practice and got to really like the people I was seeing, but they all start dying on you. In one week I lost five patients and it starts to get to you a bit. You begin to realise that a lot of people dying are dying early because of self-neglect. I see eighty-year-old commercial pilots and think of the potential in human beings.

“I got a lot of flak for it in the days, I even had some lawsuits on my hands. But people have cottoned on that I am just trying to get to the group who aren’t listening. At least I’m trying to talk in their terms.”

Following on from the success of a best-selling book and entertaining DVD and YouTube clips for Healthy Bastards, Dave was approached by three television companies to do a series, which he turned down. “It just typified to me what happens to so many creative minds in this country. You sign a contract where someone owns you and you’re lost. So I told them where to go. I feel I’m stronger now because I’m not watering down my messages. If people don’t like it they can take a hike, because I know I can speak with honesty.”

Science and artFor Dave the success of his self-funded campaign is all about raising the profile and drawing people in. “When I say ‘bastards’ people actually love that. Sir Edmund Hillary said it at the top of Mount Everest and as soon as you say it the profile of that name is lifted. It is about getting people thinking and raising awareness of the fact that the greatest gift is your body, so take care of it.”

Spare time is unheard of for Doctor Dave, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Some people in life work to live, I live to work. I love what I do.

“The key thing is to develop a dream. Whatever it is, if the dream doesn’t scare you then don’t do it, it’s a waste of time. Then within that it is important to keep it close to your chest. People are pretty quick at knocking things, so just chug away because even if you don’t succeed another door will open.”