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Family farmers selling direct see surge in dairy sales

By James Pugh | Business | Published:

A Shropshire organic dairy farm has seen a surge in sales as it sells milk and other products direct to the public through its vending machines.

James Chatham

In the face of Covid-19, the Chatham family, of Brockton Grange, near Shifnal, are seeing their self-service hut prove a massive hit with regular customers and those keen to avoid large retail crowds.

Back in 2018 James and his family transformed part of their old dairy, they invested in the new technology as a way to offer people quality, affordable, high welfare produce straight from the farm gate.

The pandemic has hit all farming sectors and some dairy farmers have seen large drops in their income as processors have called for less production and dropped farm gate prices – some have had to make the heart-breaking decision to pour their produce down the drain.

Much of the milk from the family’s herd goes to the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative, OMSCo and James said while the price had dipped, direct sales were really helping.

The family have two vending machines, one which allows people to buy milk and another that sells their reusable one litre glass bottles, organic cheese, butter and free range eggs.

James is an East Shropshire NFU member and the family’s business was established in 1944.

He said: “Having the vending machines and selling to the public direct has really helped and we have seen demand shoot up.

“I’d say it’s gone up 30 or 40 per cent and nearly 50 per cent on some days, compared to what it was before the lockdown and panic buying.

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“We have seen a slight milk price drop, not as much as others, but we are finding that selling direct as well is a useful income stream for the business at the moment.

“Cheese, butter and egg sales are also up, which is great.”

The Chatham family have cared for the cows on their award winning family farm for three generations and the 270-strong dairy herd are milked twice a day.

The business was certified organic nearly 20 years ago.

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James said: “Our ladies have the freedom to graze on pastures grown on healthy Shropshire soil, full of natural goodness, producing milk – we’re proud to sell fresh from the farm.

“We wanted to look at ways of improving our business and after speaking to other farmers who sell milk directly from their farms we were inspired to create our own and raise the profile of the Chatham’s brand.

“We’re really pleased that we made that business decision in 2018 and we’d like to thank our customers for their continued support and would urge everyone to stay well during this pandemic.”

Shoppers who head to the self-service hut can use Chatham reusable bottles or their own suitable containers to get fresh, gently pasteurised, unprocessed, organic milk.

The milk is non-homogenised (unprocessed) so they get an old fashioned cream line at the top, which can be mixed in or scooped off if needed.

A litre costs £1.30 and the dairy hut is open from 6.30am to 8pm.

James said: “The self-service hut is a great way of serving the community and I hope it’s made a real difference and helped people during these difficult times.

“There are also zero food miles, it helps to reduce plastic waste and we get a fair price.”

The freshly pumped liquid, once pasteurised, is transferred into the tank of the vending machine and the machine steam cleans itself after every use.

For further details on the business people can go to on-line or follow chathamsorganic on Instagram, @Chathamsorganicdairy on Facebook or @ChathamsDairy on Twitter.

Jonathan Evans, NFU regional dairy lead, said: “We wish James and family all the best during these trying times and it’s good to see people using their self-service hut.

“The Covid-19 outbreak is having a massive impact everywhere and farm businesses are not immune – all sectors are affected and for dairy some markets for milk have disappeared overnight.

“The NFU continues to do all it can for our members and we have just helped to secure a support package from Government for those dairy farmers facing immediate financial hardship due to the effects of market volatility.

“British dairy products are nutritious, affordable and traceable with farmers operating to rigorous standards and the sector remains vital to our economy and communities.

“I would encourage all Shropshire shoppers to back British farmers and I thank them for their continued support.”

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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