A DERFA survey back in 2013 found that the average age of farmers in the UK was 59, at that time. No doubt that age has crept up a bit since then. But dairy farming is changing and a new generation of young farmers, are bringing new ideas, mixing tradition with new technology and connecting with consumers through social media.
One of them is Ollie Hobbs, son of Free Range Dairy farmers Jerry & Jenni Hobbs, at Barhouse Farm, in Gloucestershire.
The family have been supplying to free range milk from their 200 cow herd, to Cotteswold Dairy, for three and a half years. When Ollie finished his degree at Harper Adams in 2018, he took some time to explore the world but wanted to return home to the farm.
As with many family farm businesses, Jerry & Jenni looked at how they could grow their business and generate more income, whilst enabling their offspring to build something for themselves. Back in 2018, this led to the launch of ‘Wholly Gelato’, run by daughter Emily, who has attracted customers from far and wide with a range of fantastic gelato flavours.
In October this year, Ollie launched an on-farm milk vending machine, offering super-fresh milk straight from the herd at Barhouse Farm. Here Ollie explains a little more about his new venture here and his aims for the future:
“With market volatility and unstable milk prices my sister and I didn’t want to come back to the farm full-time and put a strain on the business financially, therefore diversification routes seemed the most feasible option.
After the positive start to Emily’s gelato venture we had an increasing number of customers asking if we would start selling our own milk. So, after obtaining a LEADER grant, I was able to begin selling our own free-range milk through a Milkbot vending machine, which we hope will compliment the gelato sales. Although we are only selling a small percentage of our total milk production through the vending machine, at least we know every litre sold through it has a healthy profit margin, which is nice for any dairy farmer to see!
We hope to not only sell more of our own produce on farm, but are also keen to educate the general public, who come to our farm, about the health benefits of dairy and counteract some of the negative themes portrayed about agriculture in the media“.
In an industry that has become so down trodden, so undervalued and misunderstood, there is a new dawn that brings new hope for the future and it is led by young farmers like Ollie ‘having a go’ and giving new life to milk. We hope the Pasture Promise scheme, with our support, can give others the confidence and encouragement they need to set up more initiatives like this and we hope you will support them. They are helping to bring back great tasting free range milk and to help people understand the true value of cows in fields.