We all hanker for the best life can offer us and our families. The enticing dream of a seachange or a treechange has become part of the common lexicon as we tune in to endless programs promising us our own little slice of heaven if we just step bravely into the unknown. Then most of us switch off the TV, get up and go back to our daily grind.

    For many years Melissa and Donovan Jacka were no different. Working for over a decade for unions in media and health. Eventually the goals of unionism and one special story resonated with them enough to set them on a new path.

    Back in 19th century Britain a group of agricultural workers in Tolpuddle, Dorset tried to lobby for fair pay for a fair days work. They formed a ‘friendly society’ for this purpose, were arrested for “unlawful assembly” and transported to the penal colonies for their troubles. But the die had been cast and from their actions the modern trade union movement was eventually born.

    Donovan’s own light bulb moment was recognising that this was representative of the most basic reason people work. To put food on the table and provide a better life for their families. He and Melissa starting looking to get off the treadmill, and create a business and lifestyle with purpose for their young family. They sold their house in Melbourne and bought a farm in Tarrawingee North East Victoria; striking distance to where those we now know as the Tolpuddle Martyrs were put to work as convicts in NSW.

    Today Tolpuddle Goat Cheese and Farm Foods is a thriving cheesery, farm shop, artisan business and family home. As a farmstead cheese maker the Jackas nurture their small herd of Saanen goats, milk daily and hand craft small batch cheeses with a commitment to caring for their animals and the environment. Working with changing flavours due to seasonal changes in the milk they produce a range of limited edition fresh, bloomy, blue and semi-hard goat cheeses of outstanding quality.

    Their philosophy of animal welfare is that they really want to provide every animal with the best life possible. All their baby goats stay with mum for 12 weeks, and are then weaned for 4 weeks. After that they re-join the herd, free to roam and always with access to delicious grass, the great outdoors and warm shelter. They all live together until time comes for the males to be processed. Keeping their herd to a size manageable for their property and needing only milking animals for cheese production means there comes a time when there is no space for the male goats. Part of the cycle of farming life includes making sure that animals which have had a good life have a humane and well managed end of life. In the spirit of nose to tail eating that that end is respected by making use of every part of the animal so a by product of goat cheese is goat meat.

    Tolpuddle Cheese will be joining Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market in July with their once a year offering of ethically produced goat meat. Grass fed and naturally lean Tolpuddle goat meat is a healthy choice which lends itself to many delicious options and is popular in middle eastern cuisine.

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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