I recently wrote this piece for the Local Flavours Food and Drink Guide – published by the BBO Food Group and free from independent good food outlets and farmers’ markets.
It takes dedication to keep up a regime of early mornings, twice-daily milking and caring for your “girls” no matter what the weather, or the season. You’re unlikely to make your fortune, either – so why would anyone take up small-scale dairy farming?
That’s a question Matt Dale, the man behind the celebrated North Aston Dairy, admits he’s asked himself on many a cold winter’s day, but he wouldn’t swap what he’s doing for life in an office. He’s been on Radio 4’s Food Programme and some of his principles will be familiar to followers of the long-running radio soap, The Archers. Now, inspired by eco-pioneers Pam and Nick Rodway, of Findhorn in Scotland, Matt is offering cow bonds – shares in his herd, to people who want to invest in his vision.
“The idea is a local person actually finances the purchase of a cow. So, for instance, a cow might cost £1200 or £1300 to buy, they provide that money and they are supporting a local enterprise and it’s a secure and ethical investment which provides us with finance and avoids going through a middle man or a bank,” explains Matt.
The investor receives a return on their money and gets to name their cow – or cows, which, in turn are all known individually to Matt and are monitored through his close daily contact with the small herd.
There’s plenty of demand for North Aston Dairy products. Those lucky enough to live within two-and-a-half miles get a doorstep delivery while other customers receive their milk with North Aston Organics veg boxes. Some of the milk is sold at Wolvercote Farmers’ Market.
“They are getting milk from the cow that morning. It’s very fresh and totally traceable. I think there are a lot of people interested in buying local produce, organic and non-organic, direct from the producer,” says Matt.
He’s happy to share his knowledge – and mistakes – with anyone wanting to try a similar set-up, but he warns it’s a hard , though rewarding, way of life.
North Aston Dairy can be contacted through North Aston Organics, tel: 01869 347702. http://www.northastonorganics.co.uk