Maple Field Milk – The Start of a New Venture

Reader Contribution by Nick Snelgar
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Nick Snelgar writes about his ongoing experiences starting a small dairy, Maple Field Milk, in Great Britain. Follow along with his story about Maple Field Milk.

For the first time since 1980 you will be able to buy fresh milk and cream from a small holding in Martin, Hampshire.  

In 1980, Higher Farm gave up the ghost and the last cream dribbled out of the ancient hand-driven separator. The rattle of buckets and the tireless milking routine ceased and the last farm in the Parish stopped producing milk.                                  

But now we are back. At least, I am back – Nick Snelgar – herdsman. I have founded a new milk business called Maple Field Milk with the express object of milking a small herd of cows and providing ‘doorstep’ milk for those who want it. 

I am very fortunate that the Prince’s Countryside Fund has found my idea to be sound and they have offered to pay for the dairy processing room and all the equipment. This means that very quickly, I shall have fresh milk for sale that is pasteurized, bottled, labelled and ready to go. 

I have the first two Jersey cows (Cara and Thia) in the field with calves-at-foot and both are undergoing solemn, wrist-aching hand-milking from the not too talented herdsman – me. 

We use the raw (unpasteurized) milk at the moment, until our new two-berth, outdoor milking bail is finished and until the dairy room is complete, tested and certified. 

Cara and Thia will soon be joined by two more Jerseys supplied by my mentor, Ian Crouch of Chettle Farm, nearby. I shall take the four cows and their calves through this winter just getting used to the whole process; me to them and them to me – a lot of “getting used to.” 

I want to write a fortnightly account to share the experience of starting out in a brand new venture; to get collective excitement out of the gains and discoveries; to gather collective sympathy for the crushed foot of the herdsman, the frozen fingers and the wrong decisions along the way; to find out if this modern small scale approach to dairy farming has legs, and a future; to see if others are attracted to it as a low capital, low cost entrance into agriculture. 

If you stand on Hanham Hill and look down over the Parish of Martin, the chalk land crawls from horizon to horizon in a vast bowl of beauty. All that land is farmed by eight people. Only eight. Three of the whom are nearing retirement. We very badly need to look at the handover; at the pressing problem of who is going to farm for us. 

Somehow, through direct selling, through small scale processing and with a massive move towards a ‘re-fascination’ in farming – we must see if we can provide millions of well-paid farming jobs, part time, full time, and all the time.

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