Farming family has all the white stuff

An all-female family team has embarked on an environmentally-friendly business venture selling fresh milk direct to customers from their farm cutting out the middleman and doing their bit to reduce waste from single-use plastic.

There has been a steady stream of customers collecting their daily supplies of the white stuff since a self-service vending machine was installed at Manor Farm, Boothby Pagnell, near Grantham.Anne Harrison (59) manages the farm's herd of pedigree Bassingthorpe Friesian Holsteins; her sister, Julie Smith (56), who previously worked in the catering industry, is in charge of the pasteurisation process; and Julie's daughter Rachel (28) oversees the twice-a-day milking.Bassingthorpe Milk was launched following months of research and preparation and comes from the 400-strong Bassingthorpe herd, 200 of which are milking cows and 200 of which are young stock. There is also a small number of Brown Swiss cows on the farm.

The milk is sold for £1 per litre from a dairy shed built on to the end of a barn, while the specially-designed re-usable glass bottles are £2 each. The vending machine steam-cleans itself after every use.

After pasteurisation the milk undergoes no further processing. Anne said it was 96% fat-free, contains nutrients including calcium, protein, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins B2 and B12 and should be regarded as a super-food.

"There are not many farms that are just female-led and this is a genuine diversification for us," she said. "We wanted to add value to the milk for ourselves because the supermarkets have massive control over pricing, and for the customer who will be buying such a great product.

"Our self-service milk has the added environmental benefits of zero food miles and being collected in containers that can be used time after time.

"Our goal is to build a business that is sustainable for the next generation, like our dad did for us, and we thought it would make a difference if we could sell a small proportion of our milk directly to the public."

Anne and Julie are the third generation of their family at Manor Farm. Their grandfather even had a horse-drawn milk round in Grantham before World War Two.

"You could say we have almost come full circle," said Julie.

Among the first Bassingthorpe Milk customers was Tim Barden, of nearby Corby Glen, who said: "I have not had milk this fresh for a long time. As a family we are trying to use less plastic and I like that part of the business. I drive past here so it makes sense to call in."

Anne worked closely with South Kesteven District Council environmental health officers ahead of the launch. It was a steep learning curve for both as it is the first business of its kind in the district.

"We would not have been able to reach this point without the help of SKDC," said Anne. "The officers led us through all of the food regulations we had to comply with. They have been second-to-none. We have also received a lot of advice from our friends in the farming community."

SKDC's Cabinet member for Commercial and Operations, Cllr Dr Peter Moseley, said: "Anne and Julie have been a pleasure to work with and have done a brilliant job. I have been looking forward to trying the finished product and it has been worth the wait.

"It's good to see this kind of diversification, and self-service is a fantastic way of providing farm-fresh milk to the community.

"This matches our commitment to supporting environmentally-friendly projects. The milk is produced with no food miles and customers can collect it in one of the refillable bottles or take their own container.

"Consumers support British food and farmers and I am delighted to see Anne, Julie and Rachel pursuing this opportunity for business growth in South Kesteven."

Bassingthorpe Milk is available from 7am to 7pm from Manor Farm, Boothby Pagnell, Grantham, NG33 4DH.

Bassingthorpe Milk story

For media enquiries: Email the SKDC communications team at pr@southkesteven.gov.uk or call 01476 406498 or 406440.