Local cheesemaker Charlie Westhead was, many years ago, the first full-time employee of Neal’s Yard Dairy, which has recently made plans with support from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to protect the UK’s farmhouse cheese industry and reverse the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the food industry.

At the start of the pandemic, cheese producers, including Charlie at Neal’s Yard Creamery in Dorstone, found themselves with thousands of kilograms of perfectly ripe cheese that they needed to sell quickly.

The Buy British Cheese campaign was launched following the hugely successful Save British Cheese pledge that Neal’s Yard Dairy worked on with Jamie Oliver in April and May.

The chef joined forces with the dairy, donating his time voluntarily, and spoke directly to his Instagram followers, urging them to buy a Save British Cheese selection box, including Neal’s Yard Creamery’s Ragstone, a matured goats cheese log, to avoid food waste and keep businesses afloat.

The boxes are now available to buy online at www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk, and are an opportunity to discover and support some of the UK’s finest farmhouse cheeses.

“Neal’s Yard Creamery was started,” Charlie explains, “when a man walked into the shop in London asking if Neal’s Yard Dairy would like to run the converted stables in Kent where he had been trying to make cheese. It was started with two of the people from the shop, and then I said I’d take it over with my then-girlfriend, now wife.”

In 1996 the couple moved the business to its current beautiful location in Dorstone, where it has flourished, focusing on family and working to produce the best products they can.

The cheese and yoghurts are made from both cows’ and goats’ milk. The goat cheeses are made using milk from Andrew and Diane Goodwin’s herd at Wychmoor Farm, Titley and the cow’s milk is collected from Stephen and Sarah Fletcher’s farm in the foothills of the Black Mountains.

Buying British cheese will provide vital help to UK cheesemakers who normally sell direct to some of the country’s finest restaurants, and who have suffered immensely due to the lockdown.

Customers who buy the British cheese boxes are helping to support the industry at this critical time, while enjoying a delivery of the finest quality cheeses to their door. Every cheese is hand-made, individually selected, and cut and wrapped to order.

The next phase of the campaign is designed to help producers who, in the coming months, will see their stores filling up as their cows continue to produce milk for a cheese market that is recovering too slowly.

“If anything, the problem for these producers is increasing as sales don’t meet the cost of production, says Jason Hinds, director at Neal’s Yard Dairy.

“We hope that people will once again get behind our family producers and the cheese industry. The moment a customer’s subscription payment comes in, we will pay the cheesemaker, giving a much needed financial boost.”

The Hereford Times #BackingHerefordshireFarming aims to support the county’s agriculture industry through the coronavirus pandemic.