Iconic Producers: Holden Farm (Hafod Cheese)

At The High Street Delicatessen, we are building our handpicked collection of ‘great tastes’ around a number of ‘iconic producers‘ who represent the very finest traditions of sourcing, seasonal ingredients and food preparation.

In a series of blog posts, we plan to celebrate these ‘Iconic Producers’


There is a special magic in the air at Holden Farm.

Symphonic notes mingle with the clanking and humming of farm machinery as the closed herd of Ayrshire cows give up their luxurious bounty of raw milk to the background accompaniment of classical offerings relayed to them by music-loving herdsman, Nick Millard.

It may well be that the daily playlist has an influence on the quality of the Hafod, the traditional hard cheese handmade on Wales’ longest certified organic dairy farm, Bwlchwernen Fawr. What is most likely is that the creamy taste with its telltale nutty finish can be attributed to the raw (unpasteurised) milk from the small closed herd of  Ayrshire cows and the natural feeding regime they enjoy.

Ayrshire milk is rich in butterfat and protein which makes it perfectly suited to cheesemaking. It is this unique combination of organic Ayrshire milk and traditional cheesemaking techniques that give Hafod its buttery, rich and nutty flavours.

The name – Hafod (pronounced Havod) – is Welsh for summer place or pasture. In the case of Bwlchwernen Fawr, which has been farmed organically for over 40 years by Patrick Holden, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust, Hafod is an area of meadow next to the river Aeron where the cows graze when they are not being milked.

Dairy farming at Holden Farm Dairy is almost exclusively based on home grown forage. The West of Wales is far too wet and the ground much too sodden for all year round outdoor grazing.

However, even when the herd is inside it continues to thrive on a diet of grass. Holden Farm operates a system of ‘preserved’ forage which is cut in the spring/summer before being partially dried, fermented and baled.

For the consumer of this handmade cheese, the variation in the feed is reflected in the dairy yield. Each season or field, even individual bales and the feed they provide, has its own unique ‘flavour’. As a result, seasonal variations are very much the norm for batches of Hafod, which is a staple of the cheese counter at The High Street Delicatessen.

This is a cheese we cannot be without. It sits as comfortably as the main ingredient of a sourdough toastie as it does when it stars in a Welsh selection on a cheeseboard. Our top tip is to leave a little out the fridge to harden up and use it as a flavoursome alternative to parmesan, grated on a pasta dish.