The Slow Food Barbados Local Food Hero series features and celebrates farmers, fisherfolk, food producers, chefs and agricultural communities who have a strong connection to their community in Barbados. This series is a way for us to publicly show appreciation for those who make it possible for us to have delicious, fresh from the farm, locally grown food and those who continue to work towards a more sustainable food system in Barbados.
In this Slow Food Barbados Local Food Hero feature, our team member Sarah sat down with Andrea Power, who is the owner and Managing Director of Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses Inc:
Andrea founded Hatchman’s five years ago and has built the company into a successful local food producer of various kinds of cheese, right here in Barbados.
Andrea makes their cheeses from local cow and goat’s milk, and while both of those are a great source of protein, the milks also come from local animals that are mostly grass fed. Andrea’s choice of using local cow and goat’s milk means that there is a very short distance between the farm and the table, and the milks are full of fresh nutrients.
Sustainability means different things to different people but for Andrea, working together in unison with the natural world is key:
“Sustainability, for me, means existing in such a way that we do not take from our environment, but we form part of the ecological cycle and preserve it for generations to come. We incorporate sustainability by looking to develop biodegradable options for packaging; using food-safe biodegradable cleaning agents; and reducing our waste as much as possible.”
I wondered what it would take to make my own cheese and asked for Andrea’s advice. It is put right into their motto – “Don’t do too much tinkering!”
Hatchman’s uses traditional cheesemaking methods, they pasteurize at lower temperatures so as not to destroy the good bacteria and to preserve as much of the natural flavours of the milk as possible.
I was surprised to learn that the biggest problem Andrea faces at Hatchman’s is getting enough milk supply to meet their needs. She explained: “This is especially the case for the goat’s milk. Farmers face a myriad of challenges – from access to good pasture to high cost of inputs – for many it is a labour of love. We need more robust extension services to support our farmers and we need to improve our breeding programmes.”
One might think sampling the cheese would be the most enjoyable part of the job, but there is a competitive streak driving Andrea forward; she enjoys the fact that at Hatchman’s she can “do what the rest of the world thinks would be impossible on a small island in the tropics!”
Andrea’s most memorable moment to date was being invited to participate as a judge at the World Cheese awards in 2016.
“Being a judge was surreal! Imagine the cheese world being dominated by countries like France, Italy and the UK, etc – all temperate climates with a cheese making tradition that stretches back to the beginning of time. Naturally most of the judges would be drawn from these countries. Then low and behold there I am – a judge from a tiny dot halfway around the world – what could I possibly know! I, however, quickly learnt that the world of cheese isn’t an exclusive club and I met amazing people who shared a passion for the tradition and they embraced and encouraged my passion as well. I had to taste about 20 different cheeses and the funniest thing at times was that as we continued to taste we got some of the weirdest descriptions for the tastes – at one point one judge remarked, “is it me or is there a hint of a coca-cola taste in this one!”
Andrea’s description of tasting so many cheeses had me wondering what her favourite meal was. I was surprised to learn that it didn’t include cheese but was conger eel deep fried and sprinkled with Bajan hot sauce.
When it comes to the future of food in Barbados, Andrea hopes the island will “embrace seasonality and use more locally-produced food.” I asked her what ‘Slow Food’ meant to her:
“It is ‘farm fresh’ locally-produced food derived from locally-grown ingredients with an emphasis on environmental sustainability.”
Andrea tries to eat as much Slow Food as she can and explained that she eats it “about 80% of the time. I go to the market every Sunday to buy my fish – I subscribe to a local veg box service that my cousin Ramon Power produces. And my children eat local fruits in season.”
“My long-term vision for Barbados’ food industry is using innovation to develop a food culture that reflects our heritage and is centred on local production.”
I always try to ask a silly question in interviews as their reaction tells you a lot about them. So, I asked Andrea: “If she were to have any superpower what would it be?” Her response demonstrates a caring, community-oriented Slow Food Local Food hero through and through:
“Wind! To blow the Sargassum seaweed and Sahara dust away!”
If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy some more Local Food Hero features: