From the Bizkaigane Association to Txapel Koop, the next generation of farms and dairy producers following the deep-rooted traditional philosophy
At the tender age of 25, Txiplas, Jon Karla and Jon launched the Bizkaigane project in Errigoiti, Bizkaia in 1983. The decided to abandon the family business model that was so common in the farming industry and took the plunge into the primary sector by working together as a team, initially through the direct sale of milk.
Over the years, the team grew and became the Bizkaigane cooperative model. This 5-person work group factored in the close relationship involved in working in farming and, by following this business model, it managed to improve their quality of life and introduce a 365-day shift work system.
Right from the start, they were certain that they wanted to develop rangeland stock farming and they started to engage in extensive cattle farming to manage their livestock. So, in 1998, remaining faithful to this philosophy, they opted for the organic production model.
Seeking to bring added value to the work that they were doing, in addition to the direct sale of milk, they decided to diversify in the dairy industry by producing soft and hard cheeses. Later, they also started to develop yoghurts and semi-hard cow’s cheese and, to promote diversification in animal species, they included Latxa sheep and, thanks to the milk that they produced, they saw an opportunity to produce hard cheese from Latxa sheep.
Nearly 40 years have passed since Bizkaigane was set up and, as its founders started to approach retirement age, they became aware of the need to embark on a generational renewal process. So, in 2018, the Txapel Koop Small Cooperative was created, a work group that currently has 10 members. As part of this renewal process, a project to build new facilities in the Bizkaigane farm and cheese factory was also completed. The new 1700 m2 facilities, the sheep and cattle sheds and the cheese factory were opened in January 2021.
Since its inception and throughout its history, Bizkaigane, and now Txapel Koop, has based its production on the organic model. The aim of this project is to provide food for local residents and villages through local consumption and direct sales, the close relationship between producers and customers and the development of high-quality, healthy products. Additionally, to be competitive in the marketplace and ensure customer loyalty, they are certain that committing to innovation and broadening the range of products is an inescapable duty.
At the Leartiker Dairy Centre we have witnessed first-hand the transformation involved in this generational renewal process in Bizkaigane. So, in the last 3 years we have worked closely with Bizkaigane and Txapel Koop in the innovation of products, providing advice on dairy technology and transferring this specialised knowledge. Our collaboration began in Bizkaigane’s old facilities and we were also present for the opening of Txapel Koop’s new facilities, with an increasingly strong and competitive team. With the support of the Dairy Centre, they have had the opportunity to broaden their range of products in recent years, developing new organic dairy products that meet the needs of customers, e.g., blue cheese, lactic cheese with herbs, kefir and whey drinks. Now, they are gradually working on marketing these products.
Three people were involved in starting the Bizkaigane business, but a number of people have played their part there, energetic people, willing to transform things, looking towards the future, always with courage, adapting to changes in society, always remaining faithful to Bizkaigane’s philosophy and paving the way for younger generations to start their journey. This has been the philosophy of BIZKAIGANE up until now and it will continue to be TXAPEL KOOP’s philosophy in the years to come:
“An environmentally-friendly and diverse farming model, respectful of cattle, the land and people, based on sustainable farming.”