THE director of a creamery who spearheaded a drive to keep it going through the pandemic and safeguard jobs has been declared a dairy hero by the industry.

Trish Cannon, director of the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre, based at Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, has been named one of The Grocer’s Dairy Heroes for 2020.

They have applauded her for pivoting the business online, creating a mini supermarket for staff and keeping the NHS well-fed with cheese during the lockdown.

Trish was nominated for going above and beyond to keep the Creamery, the biggest employer in the area with 230 staff, operating.

When the Visitor Centre, which attracts 350,000 visitors a year, had to close, Trish battled to spearhead the overnight launch of an Online Deli. Bringing cheese, butter, and local produce online enabled customers around the UK, who could no longer travel to the renowned visitor centre, to order their favourite cheese and accompaniments and have them delivered direct to their door.

The dairy hero also launched a scheme giving staff at the Creamery and the farmers who supply it the chance to get groceries via the Visitor Centre, which although closed to the public but was still working to feed the Creamery’s cheesemakers and staff.

This helped ensure cheesemaking carried on and they could also continue to take in all the milk from local farms and maintain supply of cheese to customers.

Trish also championed local NHS staff, with donations of cheese, cakes and homemade biscuits to local hospitals, A&E departments, and ICUs on a weekly basis to thank workers on the front line.

As the UK entered the second lockdown, the Online Deli is continuing to deliver Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese and Yorkshire Creamery cheese. The Online Deli also includes a large selection of local produce from crackers, chutneys and oils to biscuits, sweets, chocolate, and fruitcake.

Kevin White, of The Grocer magazine, the voice for the food and drink industry said: "Trish has been declared a hero because she showed remarkable ingenuity not only did she stop Wensleydale cheese going to waste, she also kept Wensleydale staff fed during the lockdown and even managed to support NHS workers."

Trish said she has been humbled by the tribute. "I was delighted to be awarded Dairy Hero, and for our team to be recognised for all their hard work. Here at the Wensleydale Creamery, we are determined to do whatever we can to bring happiness to homes and support our customers to get their favourite cheese delivered to their door.

"When the pandemic first hit and supermarkets were facing increasing demand and pressure, we didn’t want to see people go without everyday essentials so we launched our online deli to ensure everyone was able to easily get our award-winning cheeses, as well as supporting other local Yorkshire businesses whose delicious food and locally-made gifts are available through our mail order.

"As we enter the second lockdown and lead up to Christmas, the Online Deli is a great place to pick up gifts, with a wide range of local produce, as well as being a real way of supporting our deeply rural community."