Bob Berry’s move into cheesemaking in the late 1980s has matured into an honour.
The founder of Oamaru’s Whitestone Cheese Company has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday honours.
Berry, who is semi-retired and lives at Lakes Hayes, says he’s delighted to accept the award on behalf of all those who had contributed to the boutique cheese-making enterprise.
The company employs 60 people and Whitestone is a recognised brand in the United States, Australia and the Pacific.
Berry was born on D-Day 1944, was brought up in Karitane, attended Waitaki Boys’ High School and on leaving school worked for stock and station agency Dalgety and Co.
He began farming a hill country property near Waikouaiti in 1972 and bought another farm at Maheno in 1982.
Berry and his wife, Sue, decided to diversify into cheesemaking in 1987 during the rural downturn.
“I was sick of being a price-taker rather than a price-maker,” Berry says.
“A lot of farmers exited farming during the ’80s and started all sorts of enterprises.”
The couple set up their cheese-making factory in a garage with the help of Evansdale Cheese founder Colin Dennison, and slowly built up their knowledge base by employing cheesemakers from Europe and elsewhere in New Zealand.
“All have contributed something to our recipes and the regional styles we have developed.”
The company now puts out more cheese per day than it did during its entire first year, processing about 55,000 litres of milk a week.
Berry’s favourite cheese is the company’s flagship Windsor blue.
He was a founding member of the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, served as chairman for five years and is a life member.
He continues to sponsor many community initiatives through the company, including contributions to and sponsorship of the Oamaru Opera House and the Alps to Ocean cycle trail.
Whitestone Cheese is now run by his son, Simon.
Otago Daily Times