The old psychiatric hospital Cherry Farm (also known as Hawkesbury Village) closed in 1992 and the former residential care facilities are now home to a growing number of families and a small selection of boutique food outlets.
Evansdale cheeses have had a factory here for more than a decade, and the increasing number of tourists stopping for a wedge of New Zealand brie is drawing more cottage businesses to this unusual shopping quarter.
At Evansdale there are 20 cheeses available for tastings or purchase (either in wedges or the full round) and a new museum display out the back details their hand-made, cheese-making method, from cow to plate.
Although Evansdale has no immediate plans to begin exporting their beloved cheeses, expansion plans are tentatively in the works, said Pablo Dennison, the assistant cheesemaker.
Whether that’s for a wider range of cheeses or simply more space to display their amusing collection of quirky cow-memorabilia is hard to say.
Fifty metres along from Evansdale beside a magnificent gum tree is the award-winning Matanaka Meats, an old-school butcher.
Ian Kennedy offers traditional butchery services and a wide selection of processed meat products which get rave reviews online (finely sliced, the salamis go really well with Evansdale cheeses and local stone fruit on a platter - ask Pablo at Evansdale for good flavour combinations).
Matanaka’s homekill services are also increasingly popular, with more local families choosing to eat their own hand-raised animals, especially post-recession (the processing of a sheep at Matanaka costs around NZ$40).
“There has been a steady rise of interest in organic, hand-reared meat,” says butcher Ian Kennedy, who processes everything from sheep and cows to wild pigs and venison.
“And if an animal has been raised in a low-stress environment, you can definitely taste it in the meat. It tastes better.”
Kennedy says because he lives and breathes meat “all day”, he and his family routinely opt for vegetarian or fish dinners during the week, though a Sunday roast leg of mutton is “pretty hard to beat”.
Olly’s Peanuts, previously of Waikouaiti, have also set up a small factory at Cherry Farm, in a container beside Evansdale’s.
The tasty roasted nuts are available direct from the factory door, or at Matanaka Meats when Olly’s is closed.
Drive 30-minutes north along state highway one. Just before the turn-off for Karitane, take a right to the former Cherry Farm asylum, following signs to Evansdale Cheese factory.
Post submitted by Eleanor Ainge Roy