Two brothers and a dairy farm
The Ashgrove milk and cheese factory is located at Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania. Several generations of Bennett families have been farming the land surrounding the milk and cheese factory since the 1880s.
In 1983 brothers, Michael Bennett and John Bennett AM together with their respective wives, Maureen and Connie, formed the Ashgrove Farms partnership. Ashgrove Farms continued the Bennett family tradition of mixed farming operations with a dairy herd, sheep, and vegetable crops. In the late 1980s, a decision was made to further develop the dairy operations with the decline in wool prices and the stagnation of the vegetable industry.
John and Michael’s goal in establishing the factory was to gain independence from the low commodity prices that dominated Tasmanian milk supply and to produce premium quality cheese by on-farm value-adding using farm milk. In preparation, a significant investment was made in building a new 50 unit rotary dairy in 1990.
In 1993 the Ashgrove Cheese factory was built nearby to the rotary dairy, and the first vat of cheese was produced on 29 November 1993. From an initial small factory, the factory has grown in size over the years. The factory store which opened in April 1994 has enabled our valued customers and tourists to learn how our cheese is made.
Michael’s daughter, Jane, spent two years in England learning the craft of making county cheddar cheeses. This led to our foundation range of English county style and cheddar cheeses. Richard Bennett also studied cheese making and after undertaking formal training, returned to the business in 1999. Together with subsequent cheesemakers who have joined Ashgrove Cheese, we have worked to develop and produce our premium quality and award-winning cheeses.
By 2001, the cheese operation had grown sufficiently to enable the business to be separated from the Ashgrove Farms farming operation. The Ashgrove Cheese company was established in 2001 by Michael and John Bennett and their respective wives Maureen and Connie. Ashgrove Farms continues to be the main supplier of milk to the Ashgrove Cheese factory.
In 2008 the Ashgrove Cheese company commenced bottling fresh milk and cream for the Tasmanian market. By 2010 the steadily growing milk sales led to the decision to further invest and expand the production capacity of the business. Just before Christmas 2011, the new factory was completed, more than doubling the capacity of the milk bottling plant and the cheese packing operations.
In 2012 Ashgrove Farm Milk won several awards including best Farm Light Milk at the Dairy Industry Association of Australia awards. While we are proud of all the awards we have received each year, we were particularly delighted in 2015 to win the prestigious Sydney Royal Show Champion Butter for the Ashgrove Traditional Butter as well as gold medals for our Farmhouse Butter, Unsalted Butter and Herb& Garlic Butter. In 2016, our Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm Non – Homogenised Milk and Traditional Cloth Aged Cheddar were both awarded National Gold at the DIAA awards – Dairy Industry Association of Australia.
In 2017, John Bennett AM was awarded the ABC Rural and Kondinin Group’s Australian Farming Legend of the year 2017 in recognition of his work.
We have a great team of family members and committed locals who take enormous pride in the making of our premium dairy products for our valued customers.
The Ashgrove Cheese factory and store has become a well-known landmark, and we look forward to welcoming you!