Old Hall Farm in Norfolk - A cow with calf micro dairy

Image: raw dairy products in glass and the beautiful Asteria, named after a Greek goddess.

A raw milk micro dairy celebrating two years in business

Old Hall Farm is a micro dairy of only 17 milking Jersey cows that started selling raw milk in May 2017 in Woodton, south Norfolk just 15 minutes south of Norwich.

Owners Rebecca and Stuart Mayhew saw it as an opportunity to diversify and they are now selling their unpasteurised milk from a farm shop just off Norwich road. The farm shop has a vending machine, but it is not one of the liquid self dispensing ones, see the image below. Rebecca also sells at two local farmers markets. All the cows are named after Greek goddesses: Maya, Juno, Freya, Hera, Iris etc. The dairy keeps the calves at foot and they are all Jerseys. This dairy is currently one of 11 listed UK dairies on the Cow Calf Dairies website showing conscious consumers where they can buy the ethical, high demand products. Rebecca was also involved in the creation of the newly created Raw Milk Producers Association UK. The co-operative owned and run by its members association, provides information and advice on producing raw milk safely, facilitates communication and collaboration between producers, and works with industry regulators such as the Food Standards Agency. Two-thirds of raw producers in the UK have signed up already. Support for raw milk is growing. Many people believe it is higher in nutritional content than pasteurised milk, and that nutrients naturally found in it, such as probiotics, vitamin D and immunoglobulins (antibodies), boost the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies in children and adults.

This is not the same Old Hall Farm as the Lakes District dairy with the same name in Bouth, near Ulverston, Cumbria who also supply raw milk for human consumption, but from the raw milk vending machine. This Norfolk dairy farm is just up the road from raw dairy pioneer Fen Farm Dairy.

The interview below was conducted after a previous interview with another raw dairy farmer, Christine Page in June 2017. Rebecca say that the idea to diversify with raw milk came while on holiday in Scotland. She says that raw milk has more benefits than risk, which Stuart explains. 

"Our milk is this morning's... it will go into a mini bulk tank to chill down and then we bottle it later... we're tested every three months by the FSA [Food Standards Agency] and will be introducing our own testing from a private lab." - Rebecca

"We see a way forward by being niche... our longer aim is to get people to come and see the cows, buy the milk and reconnect with agriculture and livestock." - Stuart

It’s also important to remind readers that England & Wales’ raw drinking milk system was updated recently, and changed to reflect higher food safety standards, and producers will receive additional training from raw milk experts, more here.

Audio: Andrew speaks with dairy farmers Rebecca and Stuart Mayhew about their new raw milk dairy, 1 Jun 2017 (source).

Image: The refrigerated bottle vending machine. Each bottle is kept in its own compartment, that opens once the purchase has been made, click to enlarge.

A food hub for the community. Why? Because of raw dairy popularity…

Old Hall Farm has been deeply intrenched in the local community from the start, due to the selling of raw dairy and other farm products at local farmers markets and community events.

In September 2017 the local Beccles and Bungay journal produced a beautiful story and video about the dairy, click here to view. According to the article, the dairy was doing very well at the time, with the farm producing between 80 and 90 litres of milk per day - all of which was bottled by hand. Rebecca ensured that there was plenty of milk available for the calves, because she considers it good for the them and the mothers to be reared at foot. At the time, there were plans to expand the product line. For the first two years the farm’s raw dairy was a self-service operation at the farm gate, but it has evolved since.

ARMM has posted many similar stories about raw dairy farms growing in popularity with the local community, so much so that they evolved into food hubs. It’s the same story no matter where in the world. People simply love congregating at these valuable food pit stops, with the wholesomeness they represent. Consumers love that they can enjoy a direct relationship and influence how the food is produced.

In May 2019 the Mayhews made their dreams for a foodie paradise cafe/shop/butchery a reality. The ‘country chic’ café is where home grown, and locally sourced food can be found. According to this article, the community can now enjoy farm Jersey ice creams, proper English breakfasts, salads and gluten free cakes, with birdsong, sunshine and meadow views. Visitors can buy and try the farm's own raw butter, raw drinking milk, raw cream and raw milkshakes, eggs, milk-fed pork, ice cream… and coming soon, cheese and yoghurt. Fudge and soap made with raw Jersey cream are also new additions.

The raw butter already has a Michelin starred fan base. The new café seats 46 inside and 24 on the terrace overlooking the vineyard, and fields of cows and chickens. If the content of social media is anything to go by, this must be absolute bliss for the local community!!

On Sunday the 9th of June the farm had an open day including a pop up farmer and producer market, a farm and vineyard trail, BBQ, hog roast, cream teas, raffle and more.

On imitation and fake food…

Rebecca was interviewed in June on BBC Radio 5 live, regarding the proposed EU vote to ban terms like "sausage" being used to describe vegan and vegetarian products. Like many farmers who sell high-value artisan food directly to the consumer, Rebecca also has grown a dislike of fake food and fake brands. Fake meat is industrial food - bad food, and it is the basis not just for poor health but also disease. She said in a Facebook post that lab grown products cannot be compared to natural products like meat and milk. Cows are amazing creatures - they are a solar powered system by which non-human feed can be up-cycled to high quality food, whilst improving the land. No amount of industrialised soy based roundup-ready crops will ever benefit the land the same way cows can, and there are much evidence to support it.

Audio: BBC5Live interview on 19 June 2019 (source)

She is one voice in a chorus of many on social media, saying that corporate greed is what drives craze for plant and lab based foodstuffs. For some reason, saving the world with regenerative farming practices isn't yet more important than making money. The following articles was added to Facebook in the days following the interview:

https://theecologist.org/2019/jun/18/industrialisation-fake-food

https://www.farmprogress.com/beef/fake-meat-new-kid-stupid-block

Image: at a local farmers market.

Image: an article written by Eat Norfolk published January 2019, read the online article here or click to enlarge the image.

Image:   Low Coliforms and Aerobic Colony Count are indicative of high quality raw milk for human consumption. Compare the coliform forming unit per millilitre (cfu/ml) results to the maximum limit acceptable for human consumption. Micro dairies are often able to produce raw milk with astonishingly low counts. Raw Drinking Milk must meet the following standards: Plate count at 30'C < 20,000 cfu per ml and Coliforms < 100 cfu per ml.

Image: Low Coliforms and Aerobic Colony Count are indicative of high quality raw milk for human consumption. Compare the coliform forming unit per millilitre (cfu/ml) results to the maximum limit acceptable for human consumption. Micro dairies are often able to produce raw milk with astonishingly low counts. Raw Drinking Milk must meet the following standards: Plate count at 30'C < 20,000 cfu per ml and Coliforms < 100 cfu per ml.

Image: another snapshot of a test result from September 2017.