Christmas Day with a difference

PUBLISHED: 05:29 22 December 2014

Sam Steggles feeding some of the goats on the farm. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sam Steggles feeding some of the goats on the farm. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

For many Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association members whose lives revolve round livestock and food production, nothing stops for Christmas.

Sam Steggles with his wife, Caroline, and children, William and Polly. Picture: Matthew Usher.Sam Steggles with his wife, Caroline, and children, William and Polly. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Honingham based Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) member Sam Steggles, 32, and his wife Caroline have been producing Fielding Cottage Goats Cheese for four years and have found just the right balance in terms of celebrating Christmas Day with two small children, a herd of goats and year round cheese production!

Sam explains: “My Christmas Day is probably a little different to most people’s as I’ll be goat feeding and cheese turning, in addition to wrapping and waxing some of our products. Even though it’s work, it fills me with cheer to think that all across the county and beyond people will be tucking into my goats’ cheese on Christmas Day, admittedly while I’m probably outside in the dark feeding the goats!

“In terms of who’s wandering round our house first on Christmas Day morning, and excluding an early morning visit from Santa, it could be anyone’s guess. I’m usually up at 5am to feed the goats, but my two small children, William, who is five, and Polly, three, may pip me to the post this year as they are so excited about Father Christmas. After we’ve opened our stockings I’ll take the children with me to feed the goats and make sure our self-service shop, The Goat Shed, is open for business. You can buy goats’ cheese, milk and local seasonal produce directly from the shed on a day when most shops are closed, which has proved popular in the past as many people’s Christmas Day involves a family walk, so you never know who will be passing by.”

Four years into their goats’ cheese-making venture Sam and Caroline have seen their volumes increase significantly, which has led to streamlining the business in terms of milking and processing. The twice daily milking regime of the goats no longer falls to Sam, enabling him to focus on product development and marketing. The Steggles also capitalise on web and social media, not only as a way of interacting with customers and buyers, but also as a direct route to the market via their online shop

“Depending on what stage in the process we are at with the various cheeses in production there will undoubtedly be salting, turning, waxing and wrapping to be done in the morning as the cheese does not stop maturing just because it’s Christmas Day, so I will have to spend a bit of time in the cheese making room.

“After we have been to Church we sit down as a family for a traditional Christmas Day lunch and this year my wife’s family will be joining us. After this we will watch the Queen on TV and exchange more gifts. The children will no doubt be excitedly playing with all their new toys and presents for the remainder of the day so I’ll sneak out at this point and feed the goats and lock up for the evening.

“Christmas is often a time for reflection and looking back we have had an impressive year. We’ve introduced a Taste of Norfolk hamper, new brie-style cheese called Wensum White, as well as winning a commendation from the FreeFrom Skin Care Awards for our goats’ milk hand and body lotion, so our product development has really come to the fore in 2014.

“I am doing a job I love, so sharing it with my family on Christmas Day doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It comes full circle for us as the work we put in with the goats and cheese making is rewarded by the produce we enjoy as a family around the Christmas dinner table – what could be better?”

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