An interview with Marion Roeleveld: goat farmer and maker of Killeen cheese
An interview with Marion Roeleveld; farmer and cheese-maker of the fabulous Killeen cheese! Find out what Marion loves on the food scene, her ethos for her business and her recommendations on the best places to eat and shop for food!
Brief synopsis of your business & career?
I was an agricultural journalist in Holland when I met Haske here in Ireland. I moved to Galway in 2001 and started making cheese in 2004. We now use the milk of all our 200 goats, and I buy in cows’ milk from a neighbour to make some cows milk cheese too. I make Cais na Tire here too for friends of ours, it is a hard sheep’s milk cheese.
What made you get into doing what you do?
At times Haske had problems selling his goats milk because the market was very unpredictable. While in college I worked at a cheesefarm in the Netherlands, and I loved everything about the job. So it was an easy decision to make cheese, I knew how to make Gouda, and we had this goats milk…
What is your philosophy for your food/business?
We want to prove that you can make a living on a small farm (70 acres). We believe and stand over the product we make. The whole traceability is very important to us; we grow all the grass, hay and silage for the goats. We also grow most of the concentrate feed (barley, oats, lupins) for our goats here. We then transform the milk into cheese. The cheese is an extension of the farm.
Describe a typical working day.
I start receiving (and pasteurising for some of the cheeses) the milk at 7.30am, then I go back in for a coffee. When Haske comes in from the milking we have breakfast together. I then go back out to make cheese and I will be just finished moulding at lunchtime. In the afternoon I go back twice to turn the cheese that is pressing, and am kept busy with caring for the cheese, packing cheese, dealing with e-mails, and I might have an hour for myself. After dinner in the evening I go out again for an hour to take the Killeen cheeses out of the brine, put the new cheese into it, and do the final wash.
What’s the best part of your job? And do you have a favourite memory from work?
Getting to eat and try as much cheese as I like! At a show recently a lady who had just tasted my cheese came up to me at a show and told me, ‘you are amazing!’. A small thing that made my day!
When you are at home what is your staple dish for the family?
Usually something with meat -that we reared ourselves- from our own freezer. We kill a bullock every year, and always fatten some goats too.
What is your favourite place to go eat (if you’re not eating at yours!)?
KAI, a bistro/restaurant in Galway city. It’s well worth travelling to Galway for!
Do you have any other hidden foodie gems you think are worth people knowing about – shops, producers or otherwise?
Free range pork! Once you’ve tried a free range pork chop, you will never go back to buying conventional pork.
Do you have a favourite cheese at the moment? If so, why is it your favourite?
Last season’s Cais na Tire sheeps cheese. It is the perfect age now. Caramelly, nutty, and you just want to keep nibbling it.
If you had to choose a drink to go with cheese what would it be? and why?
Currently white wine, but that has more to do with it being summer.
Where do you look for inspiration in your business?
Meeting with other cheesemakers, especially those (in other countries) that have a complete different way of working. It really makes you look at your own business with new eyes.
What couldn’t you live without?
A thermometer, and milk I suppose!
What is the best success you’ve had with your product?
Winning best goat cheese (twice) in the British Cheese Awards, and winning Supreme Champion in the Irish cheese awards (twice too!).
Stay the size we are now, but in such a way that everything runs smoother. I keep dreaming!
You can buy Marion’s creation: Killeen, here, or follow Marion’s antics on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Killeen-Farmhouse-Cheese/, or view more Irish cheeses here.