Latest news from Big Barn and our producers.

Should every community have a dairy?

Sounds Mad? Every rural community used to have a dairy like this traditional farmer on BBC’s Secret Life of Farm Animals A local dairy used to provide milk, cream, butter and cheese for the community as well as jobs, and fertiliser for the mixed farm. People in the community knew where their food came from and cooked using local seasonal ingredients. Compare this to the average child today who thinks milk comes from supermarkets, not cows.

Today’s food industry and race for cheaper food has led to intensive factory farms and some angry vegans. Vegas who tell us to stop consuming dairy products because factory farmed cows are artificially inseminated, (raped as some vegans say) have their calves taken from them at birth, are sucked dry 3 times a day, the milk contains pus, and they are culled at 4 years old when they could live to 20.

This does reflect intensive factory farming, and we agree, worth reporting to the public.

We would however rather see sensational stories and videos replaced by people getting a balanced food education through reconnecting with where their food comes from. Like growing food in schools, (more & petition here) buying from local producers and our BIG IDEA; Building Communities around food

We find it very interesting, and exciting, that many local food producers are selling their produce direct to consumers and providing better food at similar prices, or cheaper, than supermarkets. This is done by cutting out the middle men and retailer margins as well as less, or no, packaging.

Many producers are also engaging with their customers and even getting some to help grow the food with their families. This is called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and gives those involved fresh seasonal food cheaper than the supermarket, food knowledge, better health through better food and a bit of digging, and often happiness through community spirit.

Some small dairies are also selling direct to local people and making money because they can sell at £1-£2/L instead of the 30p/L paid by milk processors.

Local food production

Dairy farmers can also provide local people with raw milk and add value. (more about raw milk here)

So every community could have a dairy if enough people bought the produce to make it viable. This could completely revive the dairy industry and persuade more farmers, or young entrepreneurs to set up and engage with their community and especially schools. Modern technology can be used to reduce cost and improve animal welfare, like vending machines and automatic milking parlours that allow the cow to decide when it would like to be milked.

Perhaps some of the £3b spent on agricultural subsidies could contribute to start up costs for the milking machine as well as young entrepreneurs wanting to add value to local milk by making cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, or butter.

To me this is an intelligent use of subsidy as there are so many added benefits derived from local food production and trade, such as jobs, health and more sustainable, resilient, communities. Your Comments are welcome below.

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