Nic Dibden of South Coast Cheese

Erica and Nic Dibden have become local heroes over the past 15 years. In the face of rapidly declining milk prices and a 10 year drought, they have shown how a new kind of business can be brought into being on the South Coast.

The number of dairies in the south east has declined rapidly since the middle of last century, and it seemed that the supermarkets’ “cheap milk” campaign would be the final straw for the local industry.

The Dibdens had other ideas and believed that an integrated business that would allow them to process and market their own unhomogenised jersey milk, yoghurt and cheese was the only path to long term sustainability for the farm.

Erica (a city girl) comes from a background in retail, while Nic (from a farming family) was a carpenter before they took the big leap. The first step in 2000 was the purchase of the dairy farm in Tilba Tilba and the herd of purebred Jersey cows. The 10 year long drought that followed was not what the young business needed and was the source of huge financial and personal stress.

In 2006, they purchased South Coast Cheese, based in Bodalla, as part of their plan to make value added products for the farm. Erica had done a 7 year course in cheese-making and was passionate about the quality of cheese made from their jersey herd.

The last big step was the purchase of the old cheese factory in Central Tilba which required a new fit-out to comply with new regulations. Setting up a small scale operation such as this is very costly, especially when you have a passion to deliver the best. For example, an in-line pasteuriser was installed which rapidly heats and then cools the milk as it flows through. This makes the minimum alteration to the structure of the milk while still complying with health requirements.

This passion and years of genuine hard slog has almost reached the point where Nic and Erica can work a normal day. Sustainability has many problems, and simple things like the need to have a holiday are part of the solution. Erica’s dream “holiday” involves going to France to further her learning in the wonderful world of cheese.

With a weekly output of around 20,000 litres of milk, the amount sold at farmers markets is pretty small. They attend the SAGE Farmers Market for “visibility” and to be able to talk directly to their customers, to get feedback on their products, and to show customers that there is a face to the business.

This process has allowed them to gradually introduce their products into local shops and supermarkets. There is big demand for Tilba milk in the ACT, and this highlights Nic and Erica’s different take on business. They don’t want to get too big.

The business has generated 14 full time jobs, and the scale of the dairy allows it to be run as a holistic farming operation, using no herbicides or commercial fertilisers. As Erica says, “Why would you sell someone something that you wouldn’t eat yourself?”.

Produce Sold

Milk
Tilba full cream milk
Tilba lite milk
Natural Yoghurt
Cream
Cheese
3 Year Vintage Sharp Cheddar
Club Vintage
Tasty Blocks
Vintage Blocks
Club Blue
Super Blue
Creamed Blue
Cream Onion and Chive
Pepper Log
Fruit Cheese
Sundried Tomato Basil & Garlic
Herb & Garlic
Vintage Tomato
Chilli & Paprika
Vintage Pepper
Vintage Port Wine
Pickled Onion
Vintage Kalamata
Kalamata Garlic
Firecracker
Vintage Garlic
Chive

Milk
Tilba full cream milk
Tilba lite milk
Natural Yoghurt
Cream
Cheese
3 Year Vintage Sharp Cheddar
Club Vintage
Tasty Blocks
Vintage Blocks
Club Blue
Super Blue
Creamed Blue
Cream Onion and Chive
Pepper Log
Fruit Cheese
Sundried Tomato Basil & Garlic
Herb & Garlic
Vintage Tomato
Chilli & Paprika
Vintage Pepper
Vintage Port Wine
Pickled Onion
Vintage Kalamata
Kalamata Garlic
Firecracker
Vintage Garlic
Chive

Milk
Tilba full cream milk
Tilba lite milk
Natural Yoghurt
Cream
Cheese
3 Year Vintage Sharp Cheddar
Club Vintage
Tasty Blocks
Vintage Blocks
Club Blue
Super Blue
Creamed Blue
Cream Onion and Chive
Pepper Log
Fruit Cheese
Sundried Tomato Basil & Garlic
Herb & Garlic
Vintage Tomato
Chilli & Paprika
Vintage Pepper
Vintage Port Wine
Pickled Onion
Vintage Kalamata
Kalamata Garlic
Firecracker
Vintage Garlic
Chive

Milk
Tilba full cream milk
Tilba lite milk
Natural Yoghurt
Cream
Cheese
3 Year Vintage Sharp Cheddar
Club Vintage
Tasty Blocks
Vintage Blocks
Club Blue
Super Blue
Creamed Blue
Cream Onion and Chive
Pepper Log
Fruit Cheese
Sundried Tomato Basil & Garlic
Herb & Garlic
Vintage Tomato
Chilli & Paprika
Vintage Pepper
Vintage Port Wine
Pickled Onion
Vintage Kalamata
Kalamata Garlic
Firecracker
Vintage Garlic
Chive