I have been milking dairy cows and managing farm businesses all of my working life. During this time, I witnessed first-hand, the pressure on farmers and their cows to deliver more for less, as milk has become an under-valued, cheap commodity.
For too long I worked in an industry that had become completely output driven. I realised just how little people really knew about the farms their milk came from and the true value of the cows in our fields. I began to look at how I could reconnect farmers and consumers and give farmers a chance to win the value in milk that was rightly theirs.
I set up Free Range Dairy, through which I invited farmers to join me and win recognition for their commitment to giving their cows the freedom to graze in fields. I registered the Pasture Promise logo as a trademark in September 2013, to identify milk that only came from cows grazed in fields for a minimum of six months a year. In July 2014, my Free Range Dairy initiative was formally registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC), under the name of the Free Range Dairy Network. I am now a joint Director of the CIC.
In May 2014 I was honoured to be awarded the BBC Outstanding Farmer of the Year award, in recognition for my efforts to build a brighter future for British dairy farmers. Three years later, I also received the award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Farming’ at the Western Daily Press Food & Farming Awards. I am proud of the fact that we are now making a real difference for farmers who want to continue running a traditional, pasture-based system. I believe we can make milk great again and deliver a fair deal for farmers and cows.
Neil has now left Free Range Dairy Network, contact Carol Lever 0790 4265639 for further information.