Raw milk dairy announces plans for a new cafe, ice cream and cheese this year

Jersey cows graze at Old Hall Farm, Woodton Picture: Tristan Holden

Jersey cows graze at Old Hall Farm, Woodton Picture: Tristan Holden - Credit: Archant

If you've never tried raw milk before, there are myriad ways to sample it at Old Hall Farm in Woodton - soon to include a cafe

Just three of the flavours of raw milk milkshake produced at Old Hall Farm, Woodton Picture: Trista

Just three of the flavours of raw milk milkshake produced at Old Hall Farm, Woodton Picture: Tristan Holden - Credit: Archant

Raw milk. It's a superfood don't you know? I know technically we're not allowed to say 'superfood' anymore, but this ingredient has long been sought by health nuts for its nutritious benefits. Untouched by processes such as homogenisation (unlike supermarket milk), the real, raw thing punches above its weight, abounding with Vitamin D, A, E, magnesium, probiotics and easier to digest enzymes.

And it's made right here in the middle of East Anglia at Old Hall Farm, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border in Woodton, close to Bungay.

Rebecca and Stuart Mayhew started their journey with raw milk nearly three years ago, making them a relatively new business on the established local foodie scene, but this year there are grand plans. By Easter a café on the farmland will open. And before the year is out, the couple aim to expand from raw milk, raw butter and a range of 10 milkshakes to include ice cream, yoghurts and brand new cheeses too.

This is a story of diversification done well. Little did Rebecca and Stuart know, when they bought their farm in their own perfect little slice of the countryside, they'd end up being cow farmers.

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'We went to stay with a friend in Scotland who'd just started up a Jersey herd and I fell in love with them,' blooms Rebecca, talking with passion about the animals she loves so much. 'I've always had horses so I was used to large animals. And they are really nice to be around. They all have lovely characters! We used to always run out of milk because of the children so thought we'd get a Jersey. We ended up giving milk away to friends and they said we should be selling it.'

Now the farm is home to 20 cows and Rebecca says they like to do things a bit differently. The animals are fed almost exclusively on grass, and cows and calves are kept together rather than being weaned off. 'It keeps them nice and happy,' Rebecca adds, saying the milk they produce at Old Hall is noticeably different to run-of-the-milk supermarket dairy.

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'It's richer. And these cows are a lot more efficient so it's a far better quality milk. Raw milk will always taste better because it hasn't been heat treated and ruined. We've had several customers compare our milk and say they thought they were getting Champagne before but now they realise our milk is Champagne and what they had before was prosecco, which is nice to hear.'

What is it exactly that makes raw milk the cream of the crop?

'When milk is heat treated,' Rebecca explains, 'it damages a lot of the proteins and beneficial enzymes including the lactase enzyme, which actually helps us digest lactose. Some people can potentially digest raw milk better. We have customers who've not been able to tolerate milk for over a decade find they are able to drink ours. That's not to mention the vitamins which are more readily available in raw milk. I'm not saying supermarket milk has no nutritional value, but because it's heat treated it's not the same. One of the other things about raw milk is how fresh it is. It's in the shop the same day as the cow was milked, whereas in a supermarket the milk is often four to five days old by the time it gets there!'

Rebecca is bursting with excitement for 2019. While they already have a shop selling their own milk-fed pork and local produce, the Old Hall Farm café, opening around Easter, will tie everything together.

'It means we can showcase all our produce. We want to encourage people to come and have a coffee, and for families, especially children, to see the cows so they can understand the food chain better. We'll have a good breakfast, afternoon teas, light lunches, pop-up restaurants – but it will always be seasonal and local. It's amazing. We put a vineyard in last year as well because, if you've got cheese you've got to have wine as well haven't you?'

Rebecca and Stuart expect to have yoghurt from the farm within the next month, and to be producing cheese during the summer – perhaps a hard cheese and a blue brie (Rebecca's favourite). So watch this space for all the developments to come.

You can visit the farm shop at Woodton every day from 7am to 9pm, or find the farm at Wyken Farmers' Market on the second and fourth Saturday of the month, and at Beccles Farmers' Market on the first and third Saturday of the month.

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