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Hohepa takes next step in creating opportunities for intellectually disabled people

When it comes to choosing gourmet cheese, Hohepa Hawke’s Bay has become a household favourite throughout New Zealand. Not only is it organic and extremely tasty, it has won its fair share of awards and is produced by an organisation that supports people with intellectual disabilities.

Now Hohepa Hawke’s Bay plans to expand their products to include fresh, organic milk in glass bottles, through their social enterprise initiative, Hohepa Dairy Enterprises (HDE).  Their main objective being to support as many people as possible with intellectual disabilities in part-time, full-time and voluntary work.

Hohepa Hawke’s Bay Partnerships and Marketing Manager, Neil Kirton, says there is clear evidence that intellectually disabled people with very high needs do not participate in the workforce.

“Work participation rates for intellectually disabled people are practically zero. The vast majority remain in residential care settings with limited independence for their lifetimes,” Neil says.

“In Hawke’s Bay, disability sector service providers are continuously seeking opportunities for disabled people to participate. These opportunities are few and far between. It is hoped that HDE will initiate a new era in workforce and community participation for people with disabilities in our region.”

Based at Hohepa’s farm in Clive, HDE plans to establish a fully functional and commercially viable dairy business, producing quality bio-dynamic milk, while at the same time empowering intellectually disabled people to gain real skills in the community.

“Hohepa is recognised as a desirable brand and there’s quite a demand for organic, glass-bottled milk.  The people we support are already involved in everything from milking the cows to bottling the milk for our cheese and yoghurt products, so it makes sense for us to expand into this area.

“What we want particularly is our people engaged in the community through direct home and business deliveries, where the work capabilities of intellectually disabled people can be recognised and appreciated on a daily basis.”

Eastern and Central Community Trust (ECCT) provided a grant of $30,000 towards Hohepa Dairy Enterprises’ glass bottling facility, which will replace the plastic containers currently used. ECCT was pleased to support the initiative, which aligns with a number of the Trust’s priority strategic outcomes, including Increased Environmental Wellbeing, Increased Community Participation and Cohesion; Increased Community Resilience and Increased Equity of Access to Key Support Services.

Hohepa Hawke’s Bay currently empowers 175 intellectually disabled people to “live a life fully lived” through its arts and crafts, dairy farm and cheesery, across their two sites in Clive and Poraiti. There will be seven people involved in the glass bottling facility alone and a further five people will be involved in milk distribution in the community on completion of the project, which is due in November.