Waveney Valley launches ‘green’ milk at farm gate
Fresh, local and tasty is driving sales of milk on the doorstep for a Waveney Valley farmer.
Dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore has since a steady increase of sales of milk from his pedigree dairy herd outside Bungay – bottled direct from the cow.
And since he put up the 'cow-shed' on the Flixton Road to boost sales, more and more customers have been buying the farm's unpasteurised milk.
After he visited New Zealand with his wife, Dulcie, earlier last year, the award-winning milk producer thought about selling direct from Fen Farm on the Flixton Road. 'Wouldn't it be great to sell our own milk straight from the farm gate. We've always known that milk tastes so much better when it comes straight from the cow,' said Jonny, who was national runner-up in the Dairy Farmer of the Future award three years ago.
'Within a few days we were selling an odd bottle or two. It didn't long before word of mouth started bringing more customers,' he added.
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'It didn't take long once they'd drunk some of our milk and then they realised the difference. Once they'd had the first bottle, they all stared coming back again. We do have people who come from miles just to get some our milk.'
It was quite a steep learning curve to comply with the strict regulations, which govern the sale of so-called raw or unpasteurised milk because there are only about 100 producers in the whole country. 'We invited the local environmental health officer to the farm, who was helpful. But it was a big step from being a milk producer and farmer to becoming a food retailer,' he added.
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Later this year, Mr Crickmore plans to start a new Suffolk cheese enterprise as a means of adding value to the milk from the 220-cow herd of Holstein Friesians and a French consultant has already been providing valuable advice. 'We're planning to make a type of Bungay brie-type cheese using unpasteurised milk from our cows because there seems to be a gap in the market for a quality English cheese,' he added.
The herd's milk has been of consistently good quality, which helped several years ago secure a contract to supply a leading independent Suffolk dairy company, Marybelle, from Walpole, near Halesworth. 'We've achieved the highest quality standards but since we've been selling at the farmgate, it has got even better which is good for the cows too,' he added.
'You can't get any fresher. The cows are milked, it goes through a cooling system which chills it quickly and then we take it out of the bulk tank and put it in a bottle. Some people have bought it when it has been bottled an hour after the cows have been milked,' said Jonny.
'It is good memories for a lot of people because the milk comes with the cream at the top – just the way people remember milk. So many older people have come in and told me how good it tasted.'
'We're in the highest health band for cleanliness of milk. We also supply Marybelle with our milk and they take a sample every time it is collected. You can't really do much more – I feel very confident that we've got some very good quality milk.
The herd, which is averaging about 9,000kg, has also seen butterfat improve towards 4pc, which makes the milk even creamier.
The milk is sold each day from about 5.30am until he finishes about 7.30pm. Legally, he is now allowed to sell raw milk to other retailers but he uses an honesty box system. The milk costs �1.20 for a one-litre bottle and �2 for a two-litre container but we're selling many more larger bottles and 50 litres each day, he said.
It is open as long as someone is at the farm, seven days a week. And even Christmas Day when we sold six bottles of milk! 'It was the only day that we beat Tesco on sales!