Almost every day, Elena Martens straps her mobile dairy trailer and drives to her customers across the northern german borders. In the midst of the dairy crisis, in this highly competitive market, she discovered a big market gap.
Elena Martens stands in front of her thousand-liter raw milkchot with a bold bonnet, a long apron, the sleeves rolled up to the elbow, like that hygienically packaged she used to let her hands gliding tenderly through the milk. Meticulously she observes how the creamy liquid slowly changes. She plunges her hands again and again, into the white, creamy calf happiness, grasps a few of the clotted pieces, rubs them carefully between the fingers and checks the consistency. “It feels too good,” she enthuses, “so soft yet firm, I can already feel the development of the cheese rupture.” Martens has a milk protein energy. Food she can not milk and cheese, but she has just the right fingertip sensation.
The petite German-Russian refined raw milk to cheese on almost twelve square meters in her trailer. She is Germany’s youngest, mobile cheesemaker and this is running like a sleek only after one year. “My husband is already working with me, even though he did not even want to,” she says smiling, “we’re fully loaded!” Ottmar Ilchmann, dairy cattle farmer and deputy chairman of working society of peasant agriculture”, is not surprised at all: “Many farmers are looking for new ways to sell their milk without the dairies in the crisis, for example with dairy farms. For farmers, cheese is a further opportunity to achieve a better value-added for their milk and to maintain their farms.”
Dairy Farmer Jörn Sierck, and his wife Gunda, are customers of the first hour at Martens. Six years ago, they were already marketing a part of their own milk. At that time the milk quota regulation was still in force. After that, each dairy farmer was allowed to operate only with an allocated quantity of milk, the so-called quota. “After the milk crisis in 2008, I sold fifteen cows. This is how I reduced my milk quantity and thus won a direct marketing share, “explains Jörn Sierck. After the fall of the milk quota in 2015, there was no fixed calculation quantity for the dairies in terms of the quantity delivered. In the course of this year, major customer markets such as China and Russia are expected to have broken away, causing prices to tumble into the basement.Elena’s desire for “white gold” began long before the crises in dairy farming. At that time she lived in Siberia, near Omsk. Shortly before her resettlement to Germany she spent her summer holidays on the farm of her aunt and milked one cow by hand. “I was eleven years old, sitting alone in front of the cow on a stool, trying to pull the milk from the teats into the bucket I was balancing between my knees. It was hard, but I did nothing better than that! “
Years later, in Lower Saxony, the resettler turned her kitchen peu à peu into a dairy farm. She fiddled around until she could “conjure” a raw cheese from raw milk, which also tasted good to her husband, Edward, a strong resettler from Kazakhstan, and her four children. “Only my middle daughter still likes the industrial cheese better,” she says. “The rest may prefer my handmade raw milk cheese.” But that was not enough for her, she wanted more. In her mid-30 Martens began an apprenticeship on a dairy working farm at Stade, close to where she lives. Under expert guidance, she will be able to refine the milk of cows and goats. She is almost finished with the training, since she hears of the mobile dairies. At home, she inspires her husband. Both are plunging into research, planning and implementation. Elena buys an empty trailer and a used 1000-liter stainless steel boiler. Together with family and friends, they build and weld Elenas mobile dairy during their spare time. Finally she hires a storage room for cheese care and maturation. The “preparations” are lapping up to € 60,000, which is not much, says Martens, because they do almost everything themselves. Usually all these custom-made products cost more than double of it. “A separate cheese factory requires high investment. That is why it is a good thing that mobile dairies enable the farmers to get an entry into the cheese production, “explains Ilchmann, the dairy farmer, pragmatically. Farmers often need their money for other investments, such as dairy farmer Sierck in Schleswig Holstein: “After the sale of the cows, I have gradually boosted my livestock. Then we could produce some more milk. Whereupon my wife generates yoghurt and butter, “says Jörn Sierck. He takes care of the milk production. His wife Gunda has set up direct marketing. “At the time it was said that the cheese market was saturated. That’s why we started with butter and yoghurt, “explains Gunda Sierck.” I also lack the know-how and equipment for the cheese. ” After six months, Elena’s small cheese factory is finished, with a so-called hygiene lock, an entrance hall with mini-wash basin and cleaning utensils. Right behind this you find the heart of the production, the large stainless steel boiler, with the stirrer above. Together it looks like a huge kitchen machine. Elena regulates the temperature of the milk, depending on the type of cheese desired, for Gouda 32 degrees, for mountain cheese 39 degrees, via the thermostat, at the right side on the wall. A pump and a filling table complete the equipment. “It just fits everything so that you can ride alone to the farms,” she says. At the end of August 2015 Elena passed the hygiene test at the office of Stade. She receives the EU approval and the trade license. Finally she can start. She first acquires farmers who already market parts of their milk directly, like the Siercks with their housedairy company “Geestfrisch”. Quickly Martens service gets well known and runs by itself. The sequence is always the same, only the distances and the courtyards differ. Quite early in the morning at 4:30 o’clock Martens starts from home, in Stade. Outside it is usually dark and the children are still asleep. Her husband, Eddi, who has been working with her since April 2016, is still taking a nap on the back seat, while Elena steers safely through the night. A little further, exactly 260 kilometers, at around seven o’clock, they drive to the Kropp farmstead, the Sierck farm. Farm dog “Lotta,” a lively Bernese Sennen bitch, barked indignantly: “She still does not like big cars,” shouts the housekeeper, Gunda Sierck. Together, the farmer and Elena drag the cheese out from the last production into the farm shop vis à vis. Martens has made 24 mountain cheeses from 1000 liters of raw milk, 4.5 kilograms per wheel. Some of them end up in the sales street, some of them are refined by Gunda Sierck with their own flowers and herbs, and the rest migrates to the storage chamber. “The farm cheese was still missing in the assortment,” she says. “From Mrs. Martens I get him the way I want him, from the milk of our cows and fresh. “We do not want to be an anonymous agrifactory. Our customers should know where their milk comes from,” says Sierck. Ottmar Ilchmann, of the farmers association finds this well: “This is good for our image. In addition, direct marketing also makes the farmers independent of the global markets for mass products. “As entrepreneurs, they are once again taking charge of the marketing in regional structures, thereby achieving a good network with their customers. The hanger has a size, which practically fits almost every yard close to the tank for milk. Eddie quickly closes all the necessary cables and hoses, while Jörn Sierck is still milking the last of his 80 “employees” to the end.The red-brown cows apply to Hof Fuhlreit as labor.Outside, it becomes slowly bright to daylight, as the freshly milled milk ripples over a line of Sierck’s milktank into Elena’s huge tub, exactly one thousand liters.
At Hof Fuhlreit the Siercks decided eight years ago against industrial production. One third of their products they now market directly. Accordingly everything goes there quite relaxed. In front of the trailer, the dog has calmed down. Two gray-tinted cats sneak around and the coworkers of the farmyard fill small dairy yoghurt with plums. Elena gets nothing from the hustle and bustle around her. Her workspace is completely windowless and the doors are usually closed: “The milk is extremely sensitive, if it is frightened, so it cools down, the acidification is no longer correct.” Today the production is a little delayed for other reasons. Sierck has forgotten to turn off the normal cooling in the milk tank. He supplies two-thirds of his milk to a small dairy. Since the only two days to come to pick up, the raw milk must be cooled down to six degrees. Thus the germs, which are present in the milk, can not multiply at all. For Elena, the milk is ten degrees too cold. “I can only warm them up slowly, otherwise she’ll sit down,” she says resigned. It takes about 50 minutes to get lost. Almost mesmerizing, the food thermometer revolves around the stirring bar on the milk. Slowly the temperature rises, in the milk and also in the small space. “Sometimes up to 40 degrees inside,” Eddi groans, checking the equipment by the way. Small beads of sweat are on his forehead. When the milk has finally reached the required temperature for the production of gouda, Lena adds lactic bacteria. They are meant to promote cohesion. This takes about an hour, the time Martens uses for the logging. This allows them to guarantee the traceability of their products. Next, Martens gives the enzyme out of a calves stomach to the milk. The enzymes from the stomach, the abomasum, of particularly young calves, which unfortunately do not survive this, ensure the perfect decomposition of milk protein. They give the milk a different consistency in about 45 minutes. Then the cheese harp is used. The unit looks like a huge narrow harp with many fine wires. The muscles of her upper arms tense, Elena pulls the cheese harp powerful through the tub through the thickened milk until only small pieces become visible, the cheese rupture. Then she puts on the stirrer: “The pieces must not stick together, otherwise the whey can not drain properly. But it must be, otherwise there’s a giant mess around. “If the whey does not drain, the acidification process is no longer correct. “The cheese becomes soggy, wet, does not dry and then the quality is no longer save,” explains Elena. But Martens is satisfied. The greenish-yellowish residual liquid, the whey, settles down from the slightly sweet milk fraction as desired.The good result also depends on the feeding of the cows. At Siercks the season varies. “In the summer, of course, milk is born because the cows are mostly outside. In the winter, our cows eat their own feed and silage, “explains Gunda Sierck. The cheese tastes different accordingly. The whey has now largely escaped. Elena quickly and fills the curdled milk into the perforated cheese molds until the kettle is completely empty. Through the holes, the residual whey can flow off and the cheese pudding can gain in shape and strength. Eddi is already turning him. This happens about five times, so that the young cheese is solid enough for transport to the camp. For some cheese with all the trimmings Elena needs a good five hours per thousand liters. “I then calculate, according to the distance, 0.69 cent per liter of milk for the Gouda; For the mountain cheese something more, because it is twice as long at my camp and makes more work,” she says. After the work on the farm it goes back to Stade where the newcomers of the cheese come immediately to the Salzlake bath. One or two days later Elena starts with the special care. Their “gold pieces” get daily strokes from a mixture of red smear bacteria, salt liquor and water. After about six weeks the Gouda is tafelfertertig “caressed” and goes back to its owner. The cheese must be cultivated longer. He returns to his home only three months later. There’s a lot of traffic in the camp. “We store almost five thousand kilograms of cheese every now and then,” says Martens. That’s just the right level, but they’re bursting at the seams. “We already have 217,000 liters of milk this year,” adds her husband proudly. “Every month, we drive around six thousand kilometers.” They have 34 regular customers who visit them on a regular basis. Elena Martens is expanding according to demand. For the care of all her “gold pieces” she now has three employees and her next mobile cheese-runner is already in the starting holes. He will provide his services in NRW because she has clients there as soon as the Landesamt für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Nordrhein-Westfalen (LANUV) has granted her the license …