And open letter from Nick Snelgar

28th January 2018

MAPLE FIELD FARM,

MARTIN

FORDINGBRIDGE

HANTS  SP6  3LR

Re PLANNING DISPUTE – UNRESOLVED

Dear Sir,

This is a record of what has happened to us.  To me and my family, and as collateral damage, to nine other families who worked for us;  to  an even wider sector of the community who have become part of our business as a Community Interest Company, and who have come to rely on their staple diet of fresh local milk.

We decided in 2006 to buy four acres of grazing land in our village on which to build a local food business.  We sold our house to finance the project.

By 2010 we achieved planning permission to build our barn. In 2010 we built the barn together with a self-built twin-unit mobile home for which we applied for retrospective planning permission.

At Appeal (APP/B1740/A/10/2142506) dated 5th May 2011, we achieved temporary permission to inhabit our land. At Appeal (APP/B1740/A/12/2171974 ) in 2012 we finally sorted the ‘definition’ of the self-built mobile home and were permitted to live in it for three years – This was not the five years which we requested. The Inspectorate wrongly granted us a three year temporary trial.  All our projections, figures and plans were based on a five year term of trial. Documents and letters with the LA and with the Inspectorate clearly state a five year term.

So with one hand tied behind our backs we embarked on a three year period of business building: to milk dairy cows and to find customers.

We developed the milk processing, bottling and marketing part of the project first in order to be sure and confidant in the market/sales for fresh local doorstep milk.  Sensible business approach you might think.

When our three year trial (not five) and temporary living permission was up, we applied for ‘permanent’.  The LA  (New Forest District Council) refused permission.

Appeal Decision (APP/B1740/W/16/3152221) dated 19th January 2017, was in front of Ms H. Butcher who dismissed our efforts and refused us permission to stay and to continue our worthwhile work. Ms Butcher refused to grant us more time to complete the goals and objectives of the project (funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and us). In her Decision Notice there are three mistakes two of which are fit for legal challenge in the High Court.  We are financially unable to take this step.

This illegal decision by the Inspectorate along with the litany of mistakes and ill-judged opinions running through the document leaves us no option than to sell the field in order to re-house ourselves.

With that goes the jobs of nine rural people; all our human and monetary capital together with that of the Prince’s Trust;  all the infrastructure, the chicken houses, the mobile milking bails and sundry non-reusable equipment.

With it goes our connection to the land and our proven ability to wrestle a quiet living from it, producing very well liked fresh milk (company turnover £125,000).

With it goes all the hard learned skills and knowledge gained while spearheading this brand new farming project.

Our supporters, customers, well-wishers, local Agricultural Colleges, journalists and farming pioneers look on in complete astonishment.

They ask how can a government be the Lord High Executioner of such a worthwhile innovation.

Our business could not be greener nor more sustainable nor more carbon neutral.  It provides the exact profile that the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is seeking to encourage (ref: his speech at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, Jan 4th 2018).

The government and the Local Authority pay lip service to the rural economy and encourage us in their ‘marketing’ literature and their wordy brochures; but when it comes down to it – when the future success of Maple Field Milk C.I.C and Maple Field Farm depends on a planning decision, we get a big NO.

On no account has common sense or even legality been applied to the passage of this dispute and certainly no mercy.

Our Human Rights have been totally breached and we have become Internally Displaced Persons in our own country.

I ask for this case to be reviewed at the highest level possible, between us as human beings, rather than the out-of-reach High Court.

This is not right.

Yours faithfully,

N. J. SNELGAR

Maple Field Milk: looking for business partner

LET’S GET GOING…………..

Well……..there are two new premises to choose from. Two new people who totally see the point;  who really value the source of fresh local non-homogenised  milk .

We are looking for a Business Partner/s to join now and help with the re-start.  We are looking for energetic business people who want to dive into a ready-made food business and double it in size.  We are looking for the ideal ‘succession’ team to carry the business to the next phase and beyond.  This is the time to propagate our ideas and techniques of marketing; of lessons learnt and fingers burnt; of the tireless five years of flat-out milk selling……COME AND JOIN US.

Nick Snelgar

December 5 2017

Maple Field Milk re-starting in March 2018: exciting opportunities!

Nick Snelgar, founder of Maple Field Milk, writes:

Where do you get your milk from?  Do you have any idea which part of the country the cow is milked in?  Do you in fact know which country it was milked in? Would you like to know, and for ever be certain where you staple food comes from and who produces it?

Under the massive milk duopoly that exists in Britain, we have no idea of the farm, the country, let alone the cow our milk comes from. Do you know how your milk is processed to make it safe for you to drink?

Maple Field Milk was founded four years ago in Martin village. Its prime purpose is to provide a delicious, totally traceable, utterly fresh (24 hours old instead of eight days) alternative source of milk.

Maple Field Milk is a community owned business and is run as a co-operative.  Our aim is to connect the customer directly to the dairy farm.

Owing to a Planning Dispute with our local authority (New Forest District Council) we have put the business on’ pause’  while we find new premises.  That premises has already been found.  We wish to restart in March 2018.  We are in the process of raising fresh capital.  The business is set to double in size over the next five years.

We are looking for a person or persons to provide fresh energy and leadership. Good rates of pay.  This person or persons would be tasked with developing the business to the next level by increasing our customer base and adding new products to the range such as yoghurt and ice-cream.

It is a very exciting project.  Please apply to Nick Snelgar  01725519202 / 07811726934

MAPLE FIELD MILK C.I.C

MAPLE FIELD FARM

MARTIN SP6 3LR

Maple Field Milk – another howler

Another howler; another lovely deep north Atlantic low barrelling its way up from Cape  Finisterre; another complete deluge over Maple Field Farm.

Perfect weather for grass.  And as we like and rely on fresh grass, we love it.  After the longest day the grass loses its raging need to send up flower spikes and settles back into the engine room of leaf and root production.  Ankle deep we are and it’s August!

Our paddocks are pickled with the tall flower spikes of chicory; with the melancholy droop of sainfoin;  with the startling presence of a million clover flowers covered in a bee-buzzing ‘get-together’ where we hope the bovine won’t sniff a bee up its soft brown nostril.

How can a 24 year old Welsh sheep farmer so cling to the hope of selling his lambs to China? (BBC 2 interview with Tom Heap). Could that be a rather dismal outlook for his lively young farming career?

Hereford and Worcester have sold 42 County farms from their estate – cheers for that – and against the advice of their land agents who wanted  ‘retention and rationalisation’. I ask you.

Maple Field Milk needs to form a land trust upon which to allow new entrants to start dairying.  This has to happen or we shall lose the lot.  We have devised a business system that yields a profit through the devoted link with our customers who need and want to be fed every day with their delicious fresh local staple.

Our outdoor milking bail is so  cheap and light of touch;light on the land and easy with the cow; and very easy on the eye.  Bails were invented by Arthur Hosier in 1931.  We have his book on our central desk and we give him all the credit for such a leap of thought.  He took the cows away from the dung-soaked homestead and  pranced across the Wiltshire Downs with his mobile milking machines. And this at a time of deep farming depression.  We talk to his grand daughter Rachel from time to time.  I have tracked down three ex-bail milkers/herdsmen who worked the bails in the late ’60s.  All three men absolutely loved them.  They loved the ease and the movement and the ‘outdoorness’ of the whole procedure. Concrete…..what’s concrete? Now with the addition of a jaunty caravan awning and  Bail FM tuned to the Be Good Tanias, they think its heaven.

And by the way…..still with all this farming going on at Maple Field Farm: with thousands of customers for our milk: with ten people employed; with masses and masses of interest in our new dairy business system;  with all of this activity……the powers that be – the Local Authority; the Secretary of State; and the usual gathering of “friendly” locals forbid us to inhabit our own land. Can you believe it?

This is another modern form of Enclosure.  This is designed to send the up-start peasant back to the town.  This  modern Enclosure movement wants the small fields to remain empty for dog-walkers to glance at once a fortnight; for wealthy urbanites to live out their  retirements in complete silence. “Ten livelihoods……that’s nothing. Our food comes from the Argentine.”

We are soon to become exiles from own land. Ethnically cleansed from the Parish and the work we love.  We don’t fit.  We are noisy and vocal and we sell stuff.  We are a mob.  A mob of enthusiastic rural workers.  We don’t have farming in our blood. We can’t look back over four generations of farming.  We just have ideas and vigour.  We don’t count.  Small scale farming………….what’s the point of that?

This is who used to live here. 60 butternut squash plants on the dung heap. 150 chickens (for the table). 12 pigs every 15 weeks. Three polytunnels full of pelargonium plants for sale. Herbs etc. Cows and calves in various numbers at different times (total herd size 27 dairy cows). Vans arriving. Music playing. Ten humans. A cat. 27 wagtails. Rooks by the parliament. 27 pheasants.  Occasional fox.

Talk about diversity.

Nick Snelgar

August 2017

Maple Field Farm – this is why local food farming is so important

April 2 2017

My day starts with a massive dose of home-grown adrenaline. Fear mounts as I cannot actually see our jet black in-calf dairy cow from the window. Since last checking her at 1am, she has moved and is out of sight. I drag on the jeans and climb through the window of the cabin and jump into the field.  I find the cow lying down behind the hay feeder and busy calving.  I dance around like a fool.  The cow doesn’t quite look right. The calf is borne with a small but expert amount of help from me.  Membranes away. Eyes blink……..the gasp of her first breath taken from the still cool morning air.  The time is 5.45am.  I am not happy with the look of the mother.  I leave her for quietness sake.  I return.  She  appears uncomfortable and can’t get up.  I call Roger our herd expert.  He agrees to pop in on his way to drill the last of the wheat.  I start the pasteuriser and  prepare for Sunday processing.  Minutes later I am streaming through the lanes in 6th gear with the Citroen Relay at full throttle. I am on my way to collect the morning’s milk from Nunton Farm.  The phone rings. It’s Roger.  The cow has milk fever.  I call our brilliant vet Nicki Bentley.  She is immediately on it.  She’ll be at the farm in 20 minutes.   I draw 1000 litres of milk from Nunton and race back to Maple Field.  Alison, wife of Roger, is already  on site.  As I drive into the yard I can see Nicki the vet on the brow of the field standing majestically over the stricken cow with her arm uplifted holding the bottled magnesium which is running into the veins of the cow to bring her round.  Nicki looks like the Statue of Liberty in the early morning sun.  I could be sailing up the Hudson River from the  Nantucket Lightship.  Alison gives me the thumbs up.  The cow will live.

I am immediately demanded by the roaring processing machines that insist on someone’s undivided attention.  They need help in the field to raise the cow onto her feet.  Alison calls Zeb.  I call Eileen who is on her way to Maple Field to help me with the milk processing shift.  I ask her for help.  Seven minutes later she hand-break turns into the yard and heads straight for the emergency.  The Statue of Liberty is quietly giving instructions.  Warm water……gloves…someone deal with the calf.  The team move round the patient.  I want to blub.  This is small scale, small-holding food production at its best.  Several people right amongst a life or death problem.  People sensing urgency and applying all their skills.  We hear Adele singing over the loudspeakers for all of us.  The small-holding lets out a collective sob of utter relief.  We all know a bit more about the eternal struggle for fresh food.  As the team scrub down and chat we are collectively bonded by the miracle we have just witnessed.

Nick Snelgar

Maple Field Milk – Blog it up from the depths

January 20th 2017

Blog yourself up from the depths of winter I say.  No light to speak of: mud made sticky by the peculiar influence of frost mixed in with rain. Blog in a new routine/novel resolutions. Get to grips with the Pasture Fed Livestock Association (PFLA);  get to grips with yoghurt production; get amongst properly milking our herd; properly enjoy the  Honda engine on the milking bail to replace the whirling dervish of the power-take-off drive; write a biography of the International Harvester 574 now it is no longer needed.

Basically – the venturii  is the thing all fresh milk must pass through on its way to sale. This is the venturii of pasteurisation. This is my view at the moment. Not absolutely all fresh milk because there is an ever increasing demand for raw unpasteurised milk. So luckily for us – we have started our milk business before actually milking any cows of our own.  Most dairy farmers have already got a herd.  Their cart has been put before the horse. They are stuck with the large processor who hasn’t yet heard of Fair Trade Dairy.  This is the difficult bit and the bit that must be tackled.  We can teach you how to do this. How much does it cost?  How many people do you need? How do you canvas for business? All concentrated stuff gleaned from three years of experience.

We are talking to three dairy farmers with the idea (our idea) of halving their existing herd; turning the remaining half out to grass;  processing every last drop of delicious milk and plonking it on doorsteps within 15 miles of their farm.

Once we have accomplished this………we can add in all the values of out door cows (Free range dairy); of correct feeding (Pasture fed); the means of milking (out door milking bail); the system of handling the calves (calf-at-foot). All these vital ingredients become the final list of Unique Selling Points to present to your customers.  Hands will be bitten off……..Shelves will be stripped; information will be eagerly devoured and they will become friends for life.

We are watching our new intake of two cows from Nunton.  Two beautiful British Friesian x Jersey.  Nice small stocky outdoor types; dark healthy feet; sensible udders; woolly coats. We are watching them.

The seven pigs are a-guzzling the milk overspill;  the meat chickens are covered in and moved every day. The blackbirds bob next to the fieldfares.  Smoke sidles over the silent land from the villager woodburner performing its miracles on ash logs day and night. Bail FM barks out the new obsession ….the Be Good Tanyas (Light enough to travel).

We still await the decision on our Planning Appeal for permission to live on our four acre holding for ever. The Appeal Hearing was eight weeks ago. Are we to be ‘cleansed’ from the countryside like another 21st century enclosure act? What is to become of us? We’ll let you know.

Nick Snelgar

Maple Field Milk and small-scale milk processing introductory course

Nick’s first two courses proved immensely popular, so he’s offering another one day introductory course on Saturday December 3rd (2016) from 10.00am to 5.00pm.

Course fee (including lunch) is £95

To book a place or find out more (including b&b accommodation in Martin), email or phone Nick on nick.snelgar345@btinternet.com

t 01725 519202

m 07811 726934

The course will be held at

Maple Field Farm, Martin, Fordingbridge, SP6 3LR

Maple Field Milk timetable for Dec 3 2016

Maple Field Milk – Fairy Tale Farms

We are starting our first introductory course to the whole complex job of milk processing, sales, and distribution.  Please come along and learn from our three-year stint at the coal-face of the fresh milk business.  The course runs on 1st October and  22nd October. 15 places on each. Hurry while stocks last. Delicious lunch by the Ministry of Food from our own village.

Can’t believe………..can’t believe it’s not real butter!  Tesco (and other retailers) have dreamt up some ‘fairy tale farms’.  Next ‘open farm Sunday’ ask your nearest Tesco branch manager to kindly direct you to WILLOW FARM.  It appears brightly on their food packets. It is a ghost. It does not exist. It is a marketing ‘slight-of-hand’.  What do they take us for? This is the sort of nonsense we expose and talk about on the milk rounds. The knowledge is out. We want more milk rounds – more knowledge.  We need to strip away the ludicrous falsehoods surrounding our food supply.  Tesco would love a brand like  MAPLE FIELD MILK presenting absolute ‘local’………..but they can’t have one.  So they make it up.

The cows are mooching across a new piece of pasture with chicory looking like a crop of early kale. In one corner we have fenced off a section to watch the sainfoin, clover and  chicory actually flower.  When they do flower it is highly dramatic and tall. The flower spikes of chicory are as tall as me. They are abundant and sky-blue. This perennial plant is thrusting downwards to the chalk bedrock.  It brings up trace elements not seen since the Eocene era. Our cows are lunching on locked-up Eocene sea creatures.

The two-berth milking bail would not look out of place at the Great Dorset Steam Fair.  Not because of its age – it is brand new; but because of its mechanical simplicity.  You can watch its moving parts close-up. You can see the cow undergoing the daily ritual of milking. Children can get quite close to the action and more easily understand the system.

This week we bought 50 new milk crates; some new silicone tubing; a new alternator for the HLV and we have hit upon the ultimate Cow Bond investment package that will have Hedge Fund managers scrambling over and through our Enclosure Act hedges to get a slice of the action.

Nick Snelgar

September 22 2016

The Course outline and how to book can be found here

Maple Field Milk – Ragwort Results: Field 1 – Ragwort Nil

After the rain soaked winter of 2015/16 our four acres was severely trampled and damaged (mob grazing on ‘repeat’). As if to rub it in, the ragwort came up like a broad-cast crop.  With no sheep to graze it off in the spring when the plants are young, the ‘wort’ came up in serious numbers. We were coated with a wild layer of yellow.  As a dangerous and ‘notifiable’ disease  (Dangerous Plant Act 1953) we notified each other. I looked out on this nodding menace.  I pulled sections on my own, making tragically small dents in the micro-forest of deadly plants.  All the time I noticed the army of pretty caterpillars feeding heavily on the ragwort plants (senecio jacobaea).Out of evil comes forth good.  These caterpillars will pupate into fiercely magnificent cinnabar moths with perfect delta wings.

I summoned the family to the aid of the smallholder.  Within two hours last Saturday in glorious sun, we cleared the invaders into remorseless heaps. And that was that. The government officials prowling the perimeter of the Enclosure Act field could stand down.  A sort of equilibrium between us and nature had been reached for a moment. We shall dine out on that two hours of achievement for weeks to come.  Everyone likes joint  physical effort.

It is interesting that in 2007/8/9, when we had Ashley’s sheep grazing the pasture, there was no sign of ragwort.  Since the population has gone bovine, the ragwort has moved in.  The cows treat it like cyanide and avoid it like the plague, unless it lies hidden within a hay bale where it has become sweetened by the drying.

STOP THE PRESS………STOP THE CLOCKS……..REACH FOR THE EMERGENCY BUTTONS.

I sauntered into the dairy room on Thursday. I switched on the MR500 pasteurizer.  Nothing. I checked the fuse board. None had blown. I tried again. Nothing.

I blanched the white of a pallid pastry chef. This is it. This is the moment I have been dreading for three years. 1000 litres of fresh local waiting in the refrigerated van.  An  equivalent number of humans looking out for their Friday delivery of life-giving milk.  Nothing.

So I pressed all the emergency buttons.  Within 25 minutes Stonehenge Electrical with two engineers in red overalls and a van full of spanners sped into the yard.  Within 27 minutes  Richard Bailey – the electrician was on site and carefully analysing the circuits. Within 35 minutes the fault was detected.  The electric heater element had failed..  I phoned our third emergency service – Peter O’Connel in Manchester who had a spare in stock. Next day delivery – no good. He rings his customer in Frome, Somerset who has one on a shelf. “You can have it”, he says.  I google mapped Ivy House Dairy. From Maple Field to precious holder of our future – 53 minutes in a sprint turbo Audi.  I’m there.  Pitifully grateful, I race back down the A36 to Stonehenge Electrical workshops where the men in red NASA overalls speedily assemble the new part. We race with turbos fully open back to Maple Field Farm to fit the parts to the slothful MR500.  By 2.30pm we were RUNNING THE PLANT.  The man from NASA  hovered reassuringly until all temperatures were reached and held.

The emergency system had worked. We came out from under the deep crisis as a company that will endure.  All of us felt a twinkle of enjoyment.  Our customers knew nothing of our furious few moments.  As humans, we were closer.

Bail FM is playing ‘Trembling Bells’ (Folk Band). Our doorstep rounds keep increasing. The HLV (Horrid Little Van) groans out of the yard. Soon it will be maxed out. Then we shall need another one. A brace of HLV’S……. can you imagine?

Nick Snelgar

22nd August 2016

National Sheep Assn defends role of sheep in the uplands

The NSA have just issued this press release (25th July 2016) in advance of the launch of their new report The Complementary role of sheep in upland and hill areas — possibly with the new Defra Sec of State’s early statement that
farmers “with big fields do the sheep and those with hill farms do the butterflies” in mind?

“Sheep farming in UK upland and hill areas provides a wide range of public goods and services, from food production and environmental stewardship to landscape management and cultural heritage. To promote understanding of this complex jigsaw, and respond to criticisms from some conservationists, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has released a special report to raise awareness.

The Complementary role of sheep in upland and hill areas report will be launched this Wednesday (27th July) at the NSA Sheep Event, a premier one-day show bringing together sheep farmers, service providers and industry stakeholders at Malvern, Worcestershire. Four farmers from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will speak at the launch, explaining the unique role of sheep in every corner of the UK. They will discuss the three pillars of sustainability for the sector, which are economic, environmental and societal.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, explains: “NSA has produced the report because this sector, that is so traditional yet still acts as a cornerstone of much of the modern UK sheep industry, continues to come under threat from many quarters. Much of this is due to misguided policy direction and a lack of understanding of the many ‘by products’ of upland sheep farming. These public goods go beyond its core agricultural outputs of food and wool; they include its foundation of fragile rural economies and communities, its creation and maintenance of landscapes and environments, and its contribution to tradition and heritage.

“All of this adds to our ecosystems and our sense of enjoyment and wellbeing, yet is rarely recognised or valued. Our aim is to convince decision makers of the unique contribution upland sheep farming provides and also to set some challenges to the industry itself by offering a strategic direction that should safeguard its future.”

NSA believes the timing of this report is crucial, given the difficult decisions needing to be made over the future of agricultural support once the UK leaves Europe.

Mr Stocker continues: “This report will form the basis of many of the conversations we have over the coming months, as it is important the hills and uplands, home to some of the most iconic landscapes in the UK, are not forgotten in the Brexit discussions. There has never been a more important time to understand the tri-fold contribution of economic, environmental and societal benefits.”

The report will be launched at 11am on Wednesday 27th July, when it will be available to view at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/policy-work .