Local artisan producers across Oxfordshire have enjoyed a boom during the pandemic. From bread, cheese and butter to jam, chutney, eggs and sausages we have all been buying local more than in our pre-Covid days.

And for goatkeeper and cheesemaker Pedro Collins at The Little Village Dairy in Stoke Lyne, near Bicester, the ‘buy local’ trend has helped to put his products on the map.

The Little Village Dairy cheese range includes a classic goats cheese All About Rosie, Fenny Gill which is a blue, tangy cheese, and a fresh soft cheese. 

Pedro’s cheeses are sold at Eagles in Deddington, and at Fenemore Farms Micro Farm Shop at Clifton near Banbury. He has also partnered with sour dough specialist Sue Brown from Forge House Bakery in Lower Heyford during lockdown.

Pedro Collins and his goats at The Little Village Dairy

“I am a small, bijou producer and customers like that because there is no farming intensification here. It’s just me, the sheep, the chickens and the goats and I love it,” he says.

“You can’t buy cheese like mine in a supermarket, it is fresh, and all made here on the premises”

But with the new lockdown looming, Pedro is urging customers to continue to support small producers.

“During lockdown I was really busy,” Pedro told me as we sat and sampled his delicious goats cheese while various livestock dozed in the autumn sunshine. “I was so busy during the first lockdown and a little worried at first that I might not be able to keep up with the orders.

“People love it because I make my cheese and leave it at the front of my house with an honesty box. Customers order from me then collect it and there is no contact required which is really easy.

Pedro’s ‘girls’ are three gorgeous goats – Missy, Rosie and the latest addition Gracy May.

Within five minutes of the goats being milked, Pedro starts the cheesemaking process in his dairy. It takes about four weeks from milking the goats to the cheese being ready to eat.

“The cheese I make has a really fresh, clean taste because the milk is used so quickly. It is all about the speed, you either have to use the milk or chill it quickly and that’s why my cheese tastes so good.”

His The Little Village Dairy cheese is then wrapped, boxed, labelled and stored in a chilled cheese cave ready to be sent out to various stockists or collected by customers.

“You can’t buy cheese like mine in a supermarket, it is fresh, and all made here on the premises,” he says.

“it’s important that people continue to buy local and support us”

Inspired by his grandmother’s small holding, Pedro grew up with the idea that making and growing your own food was second nature.

“I was brought up with it so have always had goats and made cheese for myself, but didn’t really get into selling cheese until about five years ago.

“People tried it and really liked it, so I decided to have a go at selling it. I spent about six months getting everything ready and getting checked out by environmental health who really supported me to get going.”

Pedro also works as a biodiversity officer for the Environment Agency. “It is clear to me that we all need to look after the environment better and engage more with people like me who are growing and making their own food,” he says. “But I still make as much cheese as I can.”

Pedro added: “The whole process of having a small holding with goats is really satisfying, and making something that people enjoy so much makes me really happy.”

“However, even though local producers did well during lockdown, sales are slowing now and it’s important that people continue to buy local and support us.”

As well as his cheese making goats, Pedro has his own sheep, chickens and a thriving vegetable garden and tries to be as self-sufficient as possible. He also organises fungi forays – walks to local woods to share his extensive knowledge of mushrooms and fungi with local groups, and wants to encourage people to buy local and be as self-sufficient as possible.

To find out more and order some of Pedro’s cheese ring 07881 838089, find him on Facebook at The Little Village Dairy or email thelittlevillagedairy@gmail.com

SARAH EDWARDS

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