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Lewis family hooked on cheese

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

When Ross and Dallas Lewis moved to Denmark in the mid-1990s, their plan was to semi-retire, take it easy and watch their rows of grape vines grow.

After a lifetime at the family-owned Stammers Supermarket in Palmyra, Ross and Dallas were keen to get away from the city. The quiet of the country called, but Dallas now admits they've never been busier.

A few rows of grapes soon led to Ross and Dallas, with sons Matt and Ben, making their own wine under the label Ducketts Mill.

When it came time to open a cellar door, the Lewis family decided they needed an angle - and what could possibly go better with wine than cheese?

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On Boxing Day 2004, the family opened the Denmark Farmhouse with two or three wines, three or four cheeses and several chutneys and relishes.

Six and a half years later and the shelves of the Farmhouse are lined with about 200 products, most of which are hand made by the family from local produce.

That includes about 50 types of cheeses - all made from local milk - although Dallas admits she's too scared to add up exactly how many different varieties they are making.

There's little doubt the family are now hooked on cheese - particularly Ross.

His family says he simply can't sit still, and Dallas admits the biggest challenge is to get Ross to stop adding more cheeses to their already enormous catalogue.

"My father, Ross, just likes us working hard so that's why we've got so many products," Matt joked. "He likes to keep himself working hard and he drags us with him."

Not that the family is complaining - the success of the business has been built on a willingness to work hard and try new things.

Ross' passion for experimentation has spilled over to the rest of the family and the Denmark Farmhouse is currently the only producer of several rare types of cheese such as Petit Crottin and Point Hillier.

As Matt explains, it's been the perfect tree change for the whole family.

"The only cheese my children eat comes from here and if they want a glass of milk they get it from the dairy," he said.

"For example, with the lime marmalade, we grew the limes on the property, brought them over here, sliced it - I enjoy that watching the trees grow and then bringing them across and having a piece of cheese.

"It's good that everyone in the family is working together to steer the boat in the same direction.

"We've got the same goal - to create a good business, have good customers and try and have some fun along the way."

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