Duke of Cornwall's Award goes Dutch
PUBLISHED: 15:28 23 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:39 30 August 2017
The young winner of this year’s Duke of Cornwall’s Award for the best farm diversification business might not have been working within the agricultural industry at all.
Giel Spierings was stirred into action when returning home one day from college and saw a For Sale’ board had been put up on the family farm gate.
The son of two Dutch dairy farmers, Giel moved from Holland to Cornwall with his family in 1998. More than a decade later the fragile state of the industry had led the family to decide to cut their losses and exit agriculture altogether.
The young entrepreneur had other ideas and decided to find a way to add value to his parents’ milk and secure a viable future for the 136-acre farm at Lanreath, South East Cornwall.
Giel pinned his hopes of a future for himself and his family by delving into their Dutch heritage and making Gouda cheese.
The family had made the cheese for themselves as a hobby. Those who tried it encouraged the family to produce it on a commercial scale but the limited equipment, space and ultimately the time pressures of running a farm prevented it.
However during the summer of 2012 things changed and the Cornish Gouda Company was born. Giel began making hand-crafted artisan cheeses utilising the milk produced by their own herd of pedigree Holstein cows.
Space was found to make and store the cheese in a refurbished shed on the farm. With sustainability in mind the production facility had green credentials built-in. 80% of the energy used to power the business is produced by a biomass boiler fuelled largely by timber from the farm.
The gamble quickly began to pay off. Gouda is the most common cheese in Holland but little known in the UK. Giel’s products went down a storm with customers and demand for the first Gouda produced in the South West began to snowball.
The business has grown year on year and during the past 12 months Giel, who now employs two staff, produced 35 tonnes of cheese.
The cheese-making arm of the business currently uses 350,000 litres of the 900,000 the farm produces annually.
After a period of rapid growth the young entrepreneur is hoping the next 12 months will see a period of consolidation.
“The focus now is to continue to grow production but also the sales of the Gouda with a view to improving profitability.”
Continuous improvement is Giel’s mantra and he’s always looking to find new ways to perfect his processes and products.
When it comes to cheese, it’s the quality of the milk that is as important as the quantity. Giel works closely with his family who run the dairy herd to ensure the milk they produce is of the optimum fat and protein content which is required to create quality cheese.
The next step for the business is the development of new products to augment their current product line-up. Giel has been busily working on a Cornish Cream Cheese which he hopes to bring to market soon.
Catherine Mead from Lynher Dairies, a cheese maker herself, was part of the Duke of Cornwall’s award judging panel and was impressed by the young entrepreneur’s drive and commitment.
“Giel has done remarkably well. He has huge passion and his time commitment is extraordinary. The family share his burning ambition to ensure the sustainability of the farm and the cheese production is set to enable that.
“There’s huge potential and a good product to do it with and they are a deserving recipient of the award.”
Co-judge, Sir Ferrers Vyvyan who runs the Trelowarren Estate, echoed his colleague’s sentiments.
“This is a great example of diversification underpinning the farm and a true cross generation, family business.”
Giel will be presented with the Duke of Cornwall’s Award during the first day of this year’s Royal Cornwall Show. The 23 year-old has already got a plan for how he’ll invest the £1,000 cash prize provided by the Duke himself to the winner.
“I’m creating two special batches of cheese containing truffles for sale this Christmas. They’ll take eight months to mature and the truffles cost £700 per batch so the prize money will help make this project possible and help with cash flow.”
There will not be much time for Giel to revel in his victory at the show as he will be spending all three days of the event selling his wares from his stand within the popular Cornwall Food & Farming Pavilion.
To find out more about this year’s Royal Cornwall Show (9-11 June) please visit .