"Life is Gouda, for this Dutch-born cheesemaker and his wife" Stock & Land article on Millgrove Dairy
by Gippsland Jersey
Gippsland Jersey customers - Millgrove Dairy's Pieter & Nicky Tromp have an amazing story, starting up a fromagerie in the Yarra Valley making delicious cheeses! Read the full story here;
"Life is Gouda, for this Dutch-born cheesemaker and his wife"
Stock & Land 19.6.2020
By Andrew Miller
What do you do when you move halfway across the world, to find the only thing you really miss is the famed cheese of your homeland?
You build a dairy and produce your own, of course.
That's the story of Pieter Tromp, originally from Holland, and his Australian-born wife, Nicky, who have set up a dairy and fromagerie in the upper Yarra Valley.
The Tromps run Mill Grove Dairy, selling their own Gouda and other cheese at their Wesburn shop Fromagerie 'The Mill House'.
They also make feta and special orders of halloumi - all in an area not known for its dairy cattle.
"We started making cheese on April 4, 2018 - two years and two months ago," Mr Tromp said.
"I'm from Holland and my wife Nicky asked what I missed the most, and it was the cheese."
Mr Tromp said the plan to build a dairy was "a really little idea, which grew and grew".
"One little idea became a little bit bigger, and turned into another one, and before you know it, you have all these ideas," he said.
Initially, there was quite a bit of resistance from family and friends.
"They struggled to believe our story; they said 'you're crazy, you don't even get milk there'," he said.
But they persisted, given cheesemaking has been in Mr Tromp's family for generations.
"It's in my roots but I have really reinvented the wheel here," he said.
"I have a few cheese making mates in Holland. If something goes wrong, I can just ring them - but I haven't rung them that many times."
Mr Tromp described his method as trial and error.
"We are real foodies, my wife as well, and we like a challenge and the way you encourage yourselves."
Mr Tromp said he never thought he would end up making cheese.
"My uncle has a cheese factory, but I was more interested in my motorbike," he said.
After moving to Australia and meeting Nicky, the pair settled in Seville, near Lilydale, and the dream started to become a reality.
They started looking around for an ideal location for a dairy, finally settling on a property at Millgrove, just out of Warburton.
"We found a house with a big shed with it, but I looked into the shed, and there is no gas, no water, no electricity, no sewerage - there was nothing," he said.
But after drawing up plans, and bringing a friend from Holland to help them, the dairy started to take shape.
Not that the journey to fully-fledged dairy hasn't been without it's challenges.
"Oh, it was very difficult, the dairy has parts from all over the world, we couldn't get a cheesemaking machine in Australia - I could get one but it was really expensive."
Eventually, they imported a vat from Holland.
The Tromps contacted Dairy Food Safety Victoria, even when the future fromagerie was still being fitted out.
"They sent us an auditor, we were in the middle of sawdust, making the coolroom, and she pointed out what we had to change, how the floors had to look, all the rules and regulations," he said.
An initial supplier didn't work out, so the hunt was on to find someone else to provide milk.
So he and Nicky drove around, trying to determine if the cows in the paddock they were passing were dairy cattle or beef breeds.
"The way we found our first farm was by knocking on the door - you just go up to the farmer and say, can I buy your milk? We got denied a lot," he said.
"We have seen about 25 farms, and there was one more farm, and it was Gippsland Jersey (Jindivick)," Mr Tromp said.
"We said, 'we'll look at one more, then we'll go home', this was the last one."
The farm worker promised he'd pass the message on to Gippsland Jersey's Steve Ronalds.
"A couple of days later, I've spoken to Steve, we agreed on a price, and he was really open and said 'go for it'," Mr Tromp said.
He said he and Nicky shared a similar philosophy to Gippsland Dairy, in that they wanted to cut out the middle man.
"I don't want to be dependent on someone else; I don't want to become just another person, dependent on the supermarket chains," he said.
Gippsland Jersey supplies the Tromps with a 300 litre IBC of milk a week.
Cheese is sold at the shop in Wesburn, also appears on the menu at Taste, Warburton, at several local wineries and has been sold at the Warragul Farmers Market.
Sourcing products as locally as possible, the shop also offers salami's, crackers, quince pastes, chutneys, jams, olives and sundried tomatoes.
Fromagerie, 'The Mill House', can be found at 2874 Warburton Highway, Wesburn.