“The industrially-produced milk that costs £1 for four pints at the supermarket isn’t the freshest or healthiest on offer. But most people don’t have the option of popping over to a local farm to purchase a frothy pint or two over the gate.
That’s where new micro-dairies come in. Small, local processing rooms are being set up in a handful of farms across the country to deliver fresh, healthy, locally-produced milk to doorsteps, nearby shops, restaurants and cafes. “Every fridge in the country has a bottle of milk in it,” says Nick Snelgar, a smallholder who has recently set up a micro-dairy in Salisbury. “But the dairy industry is in the hands of just a few powerful companies. We’re trying to change that.”
Ten months ago, Snelgar set up a micro-dairy processing plant, funded with a £45,000 award he won from the Prince’s Countryside Trust. He bought second-hand machinery and trained in how to pasteurise and package milk.
He now sells over 2,000 litres of milk each week on doorsteps, in restaurants and it’s sold at the local shops for £1.20 a litre under the label Maple Field Milk. It’s not organic, as the idea is a “run of the mill general product that appeals to everyone” but it’s non-homogenised, which means it’s less processed and has not undergone the industrial process that breaks down fats in the milk.
Lorraine and Martyn Glover run a micro-dairy further west in Devon, and they are resolutely committed to staying small. Ashclyst Farm has grown to a herd of 75 cows, they produce 8,500 litres of milk a month and employ seven local people, selling their organic milk for around £1 a litre in the local shops (Tesco’s “pure fresh whole milk” currently retails at £1 a litre).
“But this is the limit now,” says Lorrain Glover. “We want to stay small and remain a micro-dairy so we’re not looking to increase in size further. There’s been great demand and a lot of local support. As a new supplier, we just hoped to have our milk alongside the other products available at the local village shops. But in many cases, shops have chosen to stock only our milk, which means whole villages around here are drinking local, organic milk.”…”