Peak House Farm near Whitchurch in Hampshire is one of the latest farms to invest in a RAW MILK dispensing machine.
British dairy farmers are facing a tough time as milk prices continue to sink below the cost of production. But they are determined to lead the raw milk revolution after being forced to find ways to survive.
Peak House farm has a license from the Food Safety Agency to sell milk unpasteurised directly to the consumer.
On Sunday 16 August 2015 Peak House Farm opened their gate to the community for their ‘Open afternoon to launch our raw milk’ event. The event included watching the cows being milked, cream tea (tea taken with a combination of scones, clotted cream and jam) and listening to an educational talk by William. There was also an education stand on the health benefits of raw milk and clotted cream fudge for sale. It proved to be a great success with around 200 people attending and seeing the self service machine in action. Owners Jenny and Mark Stevens, along with their two sons Tom and William, and daughter Jessica, had a lot of support from the locals and neighbours. Jenny said it was an amazing day and they were overwhelmed. The queues to try the milk from the vending service stretched out around the building, and was so successful, that the glass bottle option had to be restocked. (Glass bottles are £1, and plastic ones are free). With the price of milk being lower than bottled water, this 'no food miles' business idea can help keep dairy farmers going.
Jenny and Mark Stevens milk around a 100 cows who are mainly Holstein, British Friesian crossed with Brown Swiss and now Swedish Red. The Stevens family are 4th generation dairy farmers and have a passion for the cows, the farm and producing and selling raw milk directly to the consumer.
It was the continuous fall of the milk prices that prompted the family to install the machine on their 140 acre farm. Production of milk costs about 28 pence to produce per litre of milk, but the Stevens family only receive 22.6 pence per litre for their milk. All of this doesn’t add up. Farmers cannot be expected to continue living like this. Mark says that it is a case of doing what you can because in the long term that milk price is not sustainable for the dairy industry. Dairy farmers have taken cows inside supermarkets recently in mass protest to make their point. Mark is critical of supermarkets. He says there is intense competition between retailers to race to the bottom price. Dairy farming is a long term business, where retailing is more about here and now. Supermarket's price squeezing cannot benefit the dairy industry.
Jenny says that there is a lot of sympathy for dairy farmers. They have a quality product that supermarkets are selling as a loss leader.
She says many people think farmers are always whinging, but all they want is a fair price. Now they are taking it into their own hands and the community is showing support. Raw milk produced on the farm is in its natural state, unprocessed with nothing added and nothing taken away. Many people who drink the raw milk remember how good it tasted many years ago when they had unrestricted access to it. Jenny says it contains 4 percent fat and it is unrecognisable compared to what supermarkets offer. The milk has a delicate, refreshing flavour that varies according to the season, and the milk served from the self service machine is never more that 48 hours old.
Mark says raw milk is still a niche market but there is sufficient interest. The initial outlay for the vending machine, including the import from Italy and the building work to house the equipment cost them around £15,000. The new initiative has already gained a big following with people organising milk runs to and from the farm.
It has brought communities together in a mission to support local dairy famers.
Peak House Farm is a 120 year old farmhouse with unspoiled country views in the North Hampshire Downs of outstanding natural beauty.
The family have been successfully running a B&B business on the farm for 20 years too. They offer warm, welcome en-suite rooms and a traditional farmhouse breakfast, along with producing and selling raw milk. In spring, summer and autumn the cows graze the beautiful, lush Hampshire countryside, and during the winter they live in the yards in loose housing with deep straw beds where they are free to roam and enjoy constant access to food. The cows seem to like the luxury of straw beds in winter and being out of the cold and wet.