Dairy Diversification: Herefordshire farm turns to milkshakes to get a fairer price
A farm near Hereford has been surprised by how popular its milkshakes are after opening a special hut selling produce as part of their dairy diversification.
Merrivale Farm in Little Birch, south of Hereford, had been planning to start selling its milk and other products more than 18 months ago, but the coronavirus pandemic was among the reasons for its delayed opening. Lucy Mason, who now runs the farm with her brother Ben and wife Emily after her parents Bob and Sue retired, said they didn’t realise just how popular their Merrimilk milkshakes would be.
Saying it had been pretty well received since opening on October 1, Mrs Mason, 40, said: “It’s been going really well. The weather affects it to a certain degree, but I think that’s the same as all shops to be fair. It was planned pre-Covid, but then Covid struck, and I think there are quite a few locals who were asking to buy milk. But we couldn’t sell it to them as it wasn’t pasteurised and we weren’t registered, but it brought it to the forefront. We get all the locals shopping here which is good.”
She said that it was important for the farm to “get some direct supply going” as it was previously “in the hands” of the people they sold their milk to and the prices they would pay – a price which has been cut by half a pence a litre recently. Syrups can be added to the milk to create milkshakes, but there are plans in the pipeline for new machines to dispense the flavours as customers want.
In its 2021 diversification report, rural insurers NFU Mutual said UK farmers have adapted to changing circumstances well.
Farm insurance specialist Chris Walsh said in an effort to boost incomes and make sure farms remained sustainable, farmers have turned to glamping, festivals, dog walking sites and selling their own produce.
“While not all farmers have moved beyond their core farming activities, for those that have, new income streams are helping them secure their business and add resilience during uncertain times, such as those we face today,” he said.
The report said that in April 2021, NFU Mutual asked 1,652 farmers across the UK about their diversification experiences and plans. More than one third (37 per cent) said they – or a third party – were already using their land for non-farming activities.
“The extent to which these non-farming activities contribute towards total business turnover varies hugely,” the report said. “But, on average, it contributes 16 per cent, up from 11 per cent in 2020. On the other hand, many farms have stuck to their core business. For those that haven’t diversified, it may be because they’ve decided traditional farming is the best use of their skills and land. Others said they had stuck to traditional farming because they felt they were too old to try something new. For some, it’s only a matter of time before they seek new revenue streams. Of those farms that haven’t yet diversified in our survey, 11 per cent say they’re likely to do so in the next five years.”
Of farms that have already diversified into other areas, 34 per cent said they planned to diversify further. Dairy farms are one farm type that is often pushed to seek dairy diversification opportunities due to the low price of milk and the buying power of supermarkets with regards to setting the price per litre for milk.