Meet Auroville: Benny and Arumugam from La Ferme Cheese
Arumugam started with, “My father worked in the milk business. Whatever milk was left over he would use for making curd and for experimenting with cheese making. I would help him sometimes and it really interested me. An Aurovilian who bought some of my dad’s cheese was looking for someone with cheese crafting experience. One thing led to another and I was working with a group of people that would eventually form La Ferme Cheese! I was attracted by the idea of La Ferme Cheese; producing high value nutritional food in Auroville and supplying it to Auroville [More specifically: Solar Kitchen, Auroville schools, Youth Center, Kailash Residence and various fundraising events] at zero cost.”
Benny added, “When I was a student in Holland I was very interested in organic farming and read a lot about it, but I wanted hands on experience! So I moved from the Netherlands to a very isolated place in France where we didn’t have electricity, made our own bread, had milk and cheese from our own goats and so forth. If we had any excess produce, we would sell it in a nearby market. The cheese sold more than anything else we made, so we got more goats and that's how I learned to make cheese.”
How did the two of you come together?
Benny said, “After I moved to Auroville I was looking for some way to contribute. I got involved in La Ferme Cheese which was run by Arumugam - and another Aurovilian at the time - and as you can see, I’m still here!”
Arumugam said, “I usually eat milder cheeses like Mozzarella or Farm cheese, but sometimes I eat Jeera cheese.”
Benny said, “To eat? Gruyere or Gorgonzola cheese. To make? Difficult to say. Maybe goat cheese because it's a more creative process.”
How does a day at La Ferme Cheese looks like?
Arumugam said, “I usually take care of the dairy section. Our yard contains 24 goats and 5 cows. I follow their day-by-day feeding and I administer medical treatments and do health checkups, making sure they are maintained properly and I deal with the financial and human resource management of La Ferme Cheese, but I try to get myself involved in all kinds of work. Recently, I helped set up some water catchments areas in the grazing field outside and I also looked at some of the upkeep work for the building. It’s really interesting.”
Benny said, “In the mornings I am busy with the cheese production which includes quite some physical work. Then for the rest of the day I’m busy with customer care, production planning and other office work but I love the work I do and how much of it is hands on - and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
How does being in Auroville influence what you do?
Both Arumugan and Benny agreed that, “Being in Auroville means that we don’t own La Ferme Cheese. Auroville does. This means that you work with a different motivation, for example: if you double your revenue, it will feel nice, even though it’s not done out of personal interest. It’s just the love for a work well done in the interest of all the stakeholders. La Ferme Cheese was created to provide Auroville with something yummy and nutritious and that’s what we do! We donate a lot of cheese to Auroville schools, to Auroville’s communal kitchen and to youth communities. For certain events people approach us asking for some cheese and we say, “Here you go!”, and we love it. It’s nice to give.”
Arumugan said, “Today we process 700 liters of milk everyday with our own equipment, which I think is really impressive because originally we didn’t even have a gas stove of our own and we only went through 30 liters a day!”
Any cheesy last words?
Benny closed the interview with, “The reason you say, ‘Cheese!’, when your photo is being taken is because the thought of cheese makes you smile!”