What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
The dairy system in the UK is broken – farmers are going out of business and the solution being offered by many – large scale industrial farms – does more harm than good. Dairy farms need to rely less on expensive inputs and supermarket buyers and become more rooted in local communities. Maple Field Milk aims to make available to the local community (within a 10 mile radius ) fresh local milk plus arouse interest and provide information about how it is produced and by whom.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
Dairy farmers are going out of business across the UK with 1000 farmers ceasing production in the last 10 years. At the same time the size of herds is increasing and the environmental and social problems associated with large-scale, industrial milk production are becoming increasingly clear. While production costs, such as fuel, feed and fertiliser, are going up, the price supermarkets pay to farmers is being cut – the result is that only the very largest farms can make a profit, and even this is perilous.
What is your solution?
We aim to remind people where milk comes from and how it is produced. To build a strong customer base of devoted customers and to demonstrate to other communities the value and strength of this approach to business. The project will show that milk production can be local, environmentally responsible and profitable for farmers.
The farm is a micro-dairy based around a small herd of 15-20 cows, milked using a mobile milking bail and then processing the milk on the farm and delivering it to the local community. This model has low capital requirements and low costs, relying mostly on grass and good husbandry, making it both environmentally and financially resilient.
As well as promoting local food production, Maple Field Milk will employ, train and teach people the value of local products - in particular fresh dairy products.
How will you deliver this?
We will milk the cows, process the milk, bottle it and transport it to the customers whilst involving as many people in the production as possible. The entire enterprise will be transparent and we will encourage our customers and supporters to visit the farm, see the cows and even help out where they can.
We also want to prove that the micro-dairy concept works and is financially viable – that a small herd on grass producing milk that then travels a short distance to the customer is a model which others can adopt too.