Gay van Hasselt started what is now known as Gay’s Guernsey Dairy in 1990 when she started milking three cows in a stone kraal. She soon discovered that there was a demand for fresh milk in the community and started selling to a few customers who would arrive with their empty containers and get their daily supply of milk while on their morning walks.
Once she had obtained a license to sell milk, she began supplying to local schools and the Prince Albert hotel. The surplus milk during the holidays led to her making yoghurt.
“I hadn’t bargained on the fact that the locals regarded yoghurt as ‘vrot melk’ (milk that was off) – I couldn’t even get anyone to taste it! I began offering to donate yoghurt as a dessert at local functions… and people kept coming back for more,” says Gay.
The yoghurt soon became a new favourite in town, but Gay still had excess products during the school holidays. Gay decided to take a two-day cheese-making course at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, and began making cheese on a small scale. Her first feta experiment started out in a 20-litre cooler box.
“I started making hard cheese using an old redundant 400-litre milk tank, plastic buckets with holes drilled into them as moulds and buckets of water with bricks on top as a press.”
Gay's persistence has paid off, and after winning numerous international awards in London, Dublin and France, her cheeses are now known across the country and the world.
Situated in Prince Albert in the Karoo, the dairy has become an institution and a meeting point for locals and visitors to come together, enjoy fabulous hand made dairy products and get a real taste of farm life. All the products are made using full-cream, raw Guernsey milk from the Van Hasselt's own herd of cows. Gay believes that the core of her success lies in the quality of the raw milk that they use, making the products deliciously creamy, and steeped in natural flavour. The family and staff of Gay’s Dairy place a huge emphasis on their herd of free ranging, happy Guernsey cows.