By Jenni Hobbs, The Hobbs family at Barhouse Farm.
Last year when I wrote my Christmas blog looking back over the year, it was at a turbulent time. Neighbours who had been dairy farmers for many years, just like us, left the industry and we feared with milk prices so low that we could be next. It feels like a very different place this year. Joining Free Range Dairy Network was one of the best decisions we could have made. We still have a long way to go, but as a stand-alone year, looking back Free Range Dairy Network has achieved so much for farmers and cows around the country and we’re so glad we’re part of this. We have been fortunate enough that retailers such as Asda, Mid-Counties Co-op, Warners Budgens, and some great distributors such as Jones Bros, Highgrove Foods, Foodspeed, Moo-Fresh to name a few have thrown themselves into supporting farmers like us through the Pasture Promise logo. Seeing the merits of offering their customers a new type of milk that’s produced via local processors, farmers and puts cows at the heart of the milk.
The end of 2016 I was interviewed by BBC Gloucester about a year on a dairy farm and that was the first of a number of interviews I did in 2017. In the New Year, ITV interviewed me to find out more about Free Range Dairy Network and how we’re working together to add much needed value to free range milk and a premium back to farmers. Then a few weeks later Free Range Dairy Network was the food campaign on Jimmy & Jamie’s Friday Night Feast. It was great to see that people said yes to free range milk carrying the Pasture Promise logo and loved the taste and the message behind it. As farmers, we don’t always get a lot interaction with our customers, but this is changing. We held farmers events last year and I was proud to show people round my farm and to meet our cows. They are very much part of our family and we’re proud to say our cows graze for a minimum of 180 days and nights per year and for this we’re paid a premium for the milk.
Off the back of Friday Night Feast, we were stocked in Asda stores and March 1st I was interviewed for BBC Breakfast, a bit nerve racking but it was fantastic exposure for the initiative behind the Pasture Promise logo.
It’s been very exciting to think that something we’ve done on the farm has sparked a national and local debate. From mainstream media, regional and local media, farmers magazines and social media, we even had the Bishop of Gloucester come and visit the farm to find out more about Pasture Promise free range milk. What is clear is that not all milk is the same and I hope that from this we will always have free range milk standing alongside organic and standard in the chiller aisles.
To round off the year I was really honoured to win Farmer of the Year at the Taste of Gloucestershire Awards. As I said then, I felt the win was for the whole team of farmers, processors, distributors and the Directors of Free Range Dairy Network because we got here by working hard TOGETHER.
For us, the last few years has been about two things, allowing our dairy herds the freedom to graze for a minimum of 6 months per year and from this building value in our farming system – in 2018 we want to grow our dairy business with our children by adding an ice cream business but already a drop-in milk price is on the horizon. So, for 2018 I want to add another word collaboration. Without the support and collaboration from lots of great people, including the people who buy our milk, our traditional pasture dairy farmers would be in a much worse place this year. I want to say a very big thank you and a Merry Christmas to all.