The dairy industry has always been an important part of this district but in the early days, dairy farmers had to milk, manufacture and market their own produce. Due to a lack of suitable transport, it was impossible to send whole milk to the large city markets, so milk was skimmed and the cream was used to make butter. The resultant skim milk and buttermilk was fed to calves and pigs. The butter which kept fairly well without refrigeration, was packed in wooden kegs and transported by steamship to city agents. The difficulty for the farmer was in achieving a fair price for his butter as generally he did not have large quantities. It became apparent that if he could band together with his neighbours they would have some bargaining power. Thus the Co-operative principle was introduced to the Dairy Industry.
In February 1888 the Gerringong Co-Operative Dairy Society was formed and until it closed its doors a few years ago it was the oldest continually-operating dairy co-operative in Australia. The Co-operative began operations in a timber building erected by J B Taylor on the site of the present Mayflower Retirement Village. Directors were Messrs. G J Hindmarsh, Miller, Lee, Bailey, Jordan, Maynes, Wilson, Rutledge and Sharpe.
In June 1908 the Co-op was transferred to a brick building near the local railway station. With the extension of the line from Kiama to Bomaderry in 1893, it was now possible for the co-op to have its own rail siding. A produce store was added in 1935, with hardware, building supplies and other merchandising outlets appearing in the 1970’s, with a further extension in 1982.
The Gerringong Co-operative was unique in some respects. At one point in its operation, it had the least number of suppliers of any similar company delivering milk to the Sydney market and drew its supply from the smallest area in regard to the distance of farms to factory. It is claimed that the quantity of milk produced from individual properties was well above the State average, which spoke well for the productivity of the district.
A Tribute to Loyalty by Ian Godfrey
Gerringong and District – A History by John Shortis
Blue Haven: History of Kiama Municipality by William A. Bayley