A taste of Italy from Saddleback Mountain

Kel Grey is the sixth generation of his family to farm The Pines, a picturesque dairy farm overlooking Kiama with panoramic views from the coast and across the Jamberoo Valley.

Like many South Coast dairy farmers Kel and his wife Mahlah were faced with two options to remain in the industry: either "go big or diversify".

They chose the latter.

The original farmhouse was restored and became a holiday rental and once commercial contracts with milk suppliers expired, the Holstein herd was reduced to just 12 cows.

"Those that are left are pretty much Dad's favourites," Kel laughs.

All their milk now goes into the Greys' own products which include non-homogenised milk and gelato.

Kel grew up on the family farm, but after leaving school spent time as a ski instructor in Australia and overseas.

In between seasons he would travel a lot.

He got to see how a lot of small farms were "value-adding" to the main produce.

"It wasn't all dairy, it was everything from orchard growers making their own jams, people with farms in beautiful areas adding accommodation, a restaurant or cafe or simply bringing tourists on to the farm and educating them about how agriculture works," he says.

The couple developed a passion for cheese-making and went through Europe looking at how cheese was made in places like Croatia, Italy and Somerset, in the United Kingdom.

"In Somerset we spent time at Montgomery's farm - Jamie Montgomery has a reputation as the best cheddar maker in the world.

"Cheese making is what we would love to do, but it will take time so we thought we would start with gelato and develop our product range from there.

"We try to keep our gelato creamy, there is a lot of milk in our gelato and most flavours are imported Italian flavours."

The gelato is proving popular and is being sold at a shop in Berry called Il Locale Gelato and at local produce markets.

The gelato flavours include lemon and ginger, farmhouse caramel, tangy tangerine, cookies and fig jam and yoghurt and berries.

"We are still learning about marketing, but we are getting lots of support from local businesses in the municipality . . . our milk is being used and sold in several cafes throughout town.

"It has been a lot of hard work and is a challenge, but it is exciting.

"I didn't really envision how it would go, I just thought I would give it a go, to stay in the industry we had to do something.

"There has definitely been more positive feedback from the community than I thought.

"I thought it would be a slow process selling it, but everyone has been incredible."

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