As a Waikato local Sue knew that she was surrounded by some of the best milk in the world and was perplexed that little was done to add value to the product. Keen to run her own business, she knew what she wanted to do. “I wanted to make a lifetime of cheese for Sue,” she laughs.

In 2007 she founded Over the Moon Dairy in Putaruru, and ever since making her first camembert in January 2008 she’s been turning that rich, creamy milk into glorious cheese. The dairy celebrated its 10th anniversary of cheesemaking in January 2018.

Anxious to prove to herself, as well as to others, that she could do it, she set an ambitious target for the first few months – to enter the 2008 New Zealand Cheese Awards, just four months after making her first cheese. She not only entered those awards but won three medals that year, including gold. Since that early success, every year has seen more awards both nationally and internationally.


To take the jump from hobbyist to full-time cheesemaker Sue was dismayed that she had to train in Australia as there were no training courses for speciality cheesemakers in New Zealand. There she was taught by Neil Willman, who subsequently became her partner, both in business and in life. Amid the turmoil of setting up a new cheesemaking business and the stretch goal of the cheese awards, in 2008 she also established the New Zealand Cheese School to teach New Zealanders the joy of cheese.

Since then, with Neil at the helm as principal, the school has trained thousands of cheesemakers. Some just want to make cheese at home for their own use, others have gone on to develop new businesses. As Sue happily acknowledges, “We’ve trained some of our competitors,” but with a generosity of spirit they are happy to pass on their skills and hard-earned knowledge to new cheesemakers, seeing them not as rivals but as collaborators in developing and supporting the growth of New Zealand’s specialist cheesemaking. They have even hosted groups from Peru and Myanmar, eager to learn skills to apply in their home markets.

An innovative approach characterises Over the Moon Dairy and while they use traditional processes, they are not afraid to experiment. Since starting with the beautiful Waikato cow’s milk, they now produce cheese using cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and buffalo milk. In fact Over the Moon is the only dairy in Australasia that makes cheese with four different types of milk. Buffalo milk is very rich, creamy and dense with a smooth texture and a slightly earthy flavour. Traditionally it is used to make mozzarella, but Sue and Neil experimented, blending the buffalo milk with cow’s milk to make a blue cheese. They also saw its potential for a Frenchstyle cheese normally made with goat’s milk, resulting in their marshmallowy fresh cheese, Volcano.

To celebrate that 10th anniversary Neil has developed a signature brie. Flavoured with turmeric, ginger and pepper, Apollo is a glorious bright yellow colour, sure to light up your next cheese board. / overthemoondairy. /