Maple Field Milk: “Keep It Local”

3rd October 2013


Well it looks like I took September off.  Well I did.  I left writing to one side and became a full time dairy worker.  I became completely consumed with the incredibly rigorous world of pasteurisers and bottlers and labels and frantic  pump changes and the  whirr and the distraction of fresh milk production.  It is now week six of this ……..this almost vertical curve of learning (nothing to a surfer like Geof) but to a herdsman it is all consuming.  Also I have discovered KT.Tunstall and she plays on Bail FM almost continuously (where have I been?).

My friends and directors of Maple Field Milk, Roy and Monica, took the fresh cream from the processing plant and made it into fabulous creamy butter all by themselves; all with their own super-intelligence and craft;  all within our own village.

I took a few hours off and took a van load of fresh milk to Hale Market near us in the New Forest and was welcomed like a trader from a foreign land with our ‘local’ milk (we are the only processors of milk in the county of Hampshire) ….. The van soon emptied and a change was definitely in the autumn air. People are insisting on food that is from close contact with the farmer.

Our fresh milk is milked on Whitey Top Farm, Pentridge, in unspeakably beautiful territory, balanced on a chalky hillside at seven’ish in the morning, probably by Hannah the chief herdsperson or maybe Julie or Oliver (but he’s away up London learning to be a vet) …….I collect it. We chat. They help. We are part of the same organisation bent on bringing fresh milk direct to our people. We combine as farmer/processors. We are so obviously co-dependant.  What could be better?

That same milk is on your fridge shelf by 8am the next morning, cooled down to three degrees centigrade. No-one can touch us for freshness. 24 hours old. Non-homogenised and maxed out with nutrients.

I have, in my absence, re-read ‘The Farming Ladder’ by George Henderson (1944)  and I want to know why it was not compulsory reading in 1973 when I was at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester?

The ‘ring of seven’ (shops) has become the ring of twelve. We are six weeks into this fantastic business. I have bars and cafes and sophisticated ‘latte’ producers saying that they have never been offered such fresh perfect milk. Do we conclude that modern milk has been so ‘processed’ for reasons of mysterious movement and long distance provision that it hardly resembles the Whitey Top energy drink? We have to reach every fridge with the real thing.

Radio 4’s Farming programme today had a big piece about the Dairy Show at the Bath and West showground. They collected together ‘Farmer’s for Action’, the NFU Dairy man and the Chief Executive of Arla –the ginormous European processors, and conducted a hilarious round of questions and answers addressing nothing and concluding nothing.  As long as there is no alternative to the grocer controlled milk market no dairy farmer will ever make a good fist of it.  It is so glaringly obvious to other industries that it is laughable.  No-one takes complete control of your own precious product and offers to market it for you……….that way spells ruin.

Do you know how many fresh milk processors there are in Britain?

I’ve just gone a bit dewy with KT.Tunstall ‘Honeydew’ on Bail FM and Myrtle has gone into a legless swoon.

Keep it local

Nick Snelgar

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