Carol and Rick Thorpe founded Waimata Cheese outside Gisborne in the mid-1990s.
With an early interest in organics, they became intrigued by cheesemaking when they stayed on a farm in Wales during their European OE. Carol started experimenting when they arrived home and they have never looked back.
Their inventiveness and drive don’t stop at cheese, and they have bought lots of new ideas to the non-traditional food sector like growing persimmons. They also do most of their research and development in-house, including building their own food processing equipment. Fast forward and Waimata is now a family business with their children all involved.
Waimata blends up-to-date knowledge with a commitment to environmental sustainability. Artificial fertilisers and antibiotics are kept to a minimum and the health and happiness of their stock is paramount. They have planted the banks of the Te Ari river which borders their farm, whey is recycled into stock feed, waste water is fully treated, and water is heated using a solar heating unit.
Waimata originally specialised in cows’ milk cheeses using milk from local farms, but in October 2019 they moved to also include cheese made from sheep milk produced by Waimata Dairy, a farm located at beautiful Manutuke, also owned and run by Carol and Richard which they converted from cows to sheep. The cheeses are all made by hand using traditional techniques, and many of the cheese manufacturing staff have been part of the team from the beginning.
Their cheeses are all vegetarian, using a vegetable-based coagulant rather than an animal rennet and are also gluten-free.
It’s no wonder they’ve won lots of awards given their fixation on getting it right from the soil to the cheeseboard. They love innovating too, with products like 50/50 cow/sheep milk cheeses, and a brie coated in brown manuka ash.