The Meyer Gouda Cheese story begins in a tiny village in the South of the Netherlands. After visiting a monastery in Postel where monks were producing handmade cheese, Ben and Fieke Meyer were inspired to try cheese making themselves. Independence, working close to nature and producing a good honest product appealed to the young couple who at the time were working as a teacher (Fieke) and an electrical engineer (Ben). Ben enrolled for a cheese course in Gouda run by Dutch cheese master, Mr G Elings.
In the evenings they worked together, to build a little cheese factory in the hay shed on Ben’s parents farm near Bladel.
The recently married couple also lived on the farm in a converted old chicken shed called Het Hok and at night after work they travelled to cheese farms to purchase second hand equipment to carefully restore for the factory. All the work was done by hand and every cent they earned went into their cheese factory.
The Meyers were still building their factory when they made their very first cheese, a young farmhouse Gouda, in July 1976. Less than a year later, 300 litres of milk was poured into the new vat and production of several big wheels of Gouda began as the cheese factory began operating for the first time.
Selling cheese from the farm had its challenges and looking back Ben and Fieke often wonder why people kept coming. They recall stories of people bumping their heads on the cellar ceiling, being splashed by muddy water as they came up the driveway and one customer being chased by a swarm of bees as he left. Ben’s family were pleased when the new shop, de Hooiberg Kaas Boerderij (Hay Mountain Cheese Farm), was built on the farm and customers no longer wandered through the kitchen any time of day to get to the cellar. Dried herbs, honey from the farm and their rapidly expanding cheese selection were favourites in the shop.
While still working their day jobs, Ben and Fieke made cheese four times a week in the evenings and sold it to locals from a small underground cellar in Ben’s parents farmhouse. To this day, Dutch customers still fondly remember the cosy cellar with its low ceilings and busy farmhouse kitchen that was always full of people talking and eating.
During this time Mr Elings visited and offered advice to the couple how to taste, feel, and smell cheese and to not only make the best cheese around but how to talk cheese. Working all day and making cheese by night was tiring and a few months after opening the shop, Ben gave up work to focus on cheese while Fieke stayed on at her teaching job. A few years later, Ben and Fieke began adding ‚little cheese makers to their family and Fieke gave up work to look after the shop which got busier by the day. As the family grew, Het Hok, which was cosy and romantic when they first married, was becoming cramped and they applied for consent to build a new house. At the same time, tired of the dull weather and looking for a new adventure, they talked about taking their cheese making skills abroad.
In 1981, they applied to immigrate to New Zealand and eventually in 1983, at the same time that they were given consent to build their new house, they were also offered permanent residency in New Zealand. New Zealand won out and in 1984, Ben and Fieke arrived in the land of the long white cloud with three small children, Geert (4), Fieke (2) and baby Miel.
As the heart of the New Zealand dairy industry, the Meyers chose Waikato as their new home. They settled in Cambridge on a 5-acre block, quickly setting up their cheese production. Initially they struggled with the New Zealand milk as Kiwi dairy cows milk composition differed dramatically from milk in The Netherlands. Without the support from their cheese making mentors at home, the first year was challenging and the Meyers produced some ‚Äúvery bad cheeses.‚Äù¬† However, trial and error and advice from a Dutch cheese maker in Mercer helped Ben and Fieke begin producing the quality cheese they were so widely known for in Bladel. After five years, the Meyers decided to purchase their very own farm to control milk supply, a decision paramount to the quality of their cheese production today.
Meyer Gouda Cheese is one of the most significantly awarded companies in New Zealand, picking up Supreme Champion at the first New Zealand Cheese Awards in 1994 and a string of awards since. In 2011, their youngest son Miel was awarded the Cheesemaker of the Year Award ‚Äì the youngest cheesemaker in the history of the competition to scoop the prize.
Meyer Gouda Cheese is now a fully-fledged family affair with the next generation at the helm. Miel took over as general manager of Meyer Gouda Cheese after Ben and Fieke retired in 2007. In August 2011, eldest son Geert came back from The Netherlands as head cheese maker for Meyer Gouda Cheese.
Meyers’ cheese is now sold nationwide and is available in traditional whole wheels and the more convenient Food Service and Retail packs. Contact us for Distribution details and/or store locations within New Zealand.