500,000 (yes, five HUNDRED THOUSAND!) litres of milk are being poured down the drain EVERY WEEK by small family farms around the country. Meanwhile, people are having to rely more than ever on food banks, community kitchens and other charitable initiatives to ensure they have the food they need to survive. Something doesn’t add up.
We aim to create a bridge between these two food issues by raising funds to purchase surplus milk and dairy products from small scale producers around the UK, and re-distributing it, in partnership with FareShare, who supply over 11,000 non profit organisations, charities and food banks across the country.
The disruption caused by COVID-19 has impacted the British Dairy and Farmhouse Cheese industry significantly. According to a survey from the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), 1 million litres of milk was wasted between the 6th of April and the 20th of April as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown of restaurants, food service and other areas of hospitality and leisure.
Why is this?
The producers we work with primarily supply the hospitality trade and specialist food shops - they make delicious cheese and produce the very best British milk with care and passion. On Friday March 13th, they all saw a huge drop off in trade across the country and the following week restaurants, airlines, bars, coffee shops and food businesses began to close.
Many, ourselves included, have turned to home delivery and online sales to survive. Although there has been a big rise in purchases made this way, it does not make up for the revenue lost when the food service industry shut, and there is no telling whether these sales can be sustained once lock-down measures begin to be lifted.
Some supermarkets have cancelled large orders of small producer cheese, in favour of existing contracts with mass produced block cheddar and the like, leaving many cheese-makers sitting on cheese that has nowhere to go. Cheese-makers are dramatically decreasing production, leaving those who usually supply them with milk with a large surplus too. Many producers are heading towards a real crisis, which could alter the landscape of both the dairy and the hospitality industries for many years to come, as well as force many rural communities into unemployment and financial turmoil.
At the same time as all this produce is sitting and hoping for a home, people are going hungry. Those who are vulnerable, at risk and unable to leave the house, or who cannot afford to purchase even basic food and drink are having to rely on community kitchens and food banks more then ever. These initiatives have, in turn, seen an incredible increase in demand and often don't have enough dairy products to go around! We’re partnering with Fare Share to bring these two ends of the chain together.
How can we fix it?
We’re raising funds to purchase cheese and dairy products that have a high possibility of going to waste, at fair prices, in order to support producers across the country and prevent stock from going to waste.
This food will then be distributed by our partners at Fare Share, who have seen the demand for hard cheese, milk and butter increase significantly, to the places and initiatives where it is most needed.
How can you help?
Please donate. Your money will not only help to save British Farmhouse Cheese makers and dairy farmers, and prevent vast amounts of produce from going to waste, but will help to ensure this amazing, highly nutritious food reaches those who have been hit the hardest by recent events.
How do we choose who to support?
We’ve spent the past week on the phone to our friends and colleagues across the British dairy industry, trying to establish where support is most urgently needed, and how much support producers require in order to survive over the coming weeks and months.
How will the money be spent?
Our aim is to offer our producers a fair market price for their produce but to cut out any retail margin or profit, effectively just covering their costs. For example the industry average price for bulk milk in March was a little over 28p a litre. We're aiming at a target price of 35p-40p per litre, which includes 10p a litre for bottling and packaging it into usable 2ltr bottles for Fare Share.
This fund will only be used to pay for the purchase of the produce, Fare Share will cover all costs associated to the transport and distribution of it across the UK.
To begin with, we’ll be working with…
We've decided to concentrate our focus on three main areas initially:
1. Surplus liquid milk, we'll be working with two producers, Calon Wen and Plurenden Manor Farm , a little more about them below. Our aim is to buy surplus milk from them that would otherwise have gone to waste and pass it on to Fare Share.
Calon Wen are a co operative of 25 family run farms based all over Wales. Between all of their farms over 250 people depend on Calon Wen for their livelihood.
They lost a home for 75% of their milk overnight.
Plurenden Manor Farm are a family run farm in Kent. They are being forced to pour milk down the drain.
2. Sheeps Milk, the sheeps milk industry is in real crisis. Unlike regular milk there is very little demand for sheeps milk outside of cheese making. Farmers are faced with pouring milk away, drying the animals off which can have negative welfare and business implications or even culling their flock. We want to help them avoid taking any of these paths.
We'll be working with The Sheep Milk Company, Kupros Dairy and Shepherd's Purse.
The Sheep Milk Company is run by Simon Stott in Preston Lancashire. They are a buying group who in normal times purchase sheep milk from 9 small family farms some of whom they have worked with for over 20 years. Simon supplies 27 different dairies making a range of sheep’s milk cheeses that supply the hospitality trade.
On Friday 13th March Simon began receiving calls from customers cancelling orders, within a few days he had lost 80% of his trade.
With the Got Milk Fund we are going to work with producers that can actively improve this situation. By committing to buy stock from Kupros Dairy and Shepherd’s Purse - two fantastic producers of fresh sheep's milk cheese we will provide a viable route to market for the high quality sheep milk that currently has no home to go to.
3. Clothbound Cheddar. Hard cheese is one of the most in demand food items for Fare Share and supply often can't fulfil demand. As such we'll be working with Quicke’s Cheddar to provide high quality, nutritious cheese to Fair Share.
As the landscape progresses, we will be constantly assessing where support is needed the most (i.e. which producers critically need to move stock, increase production in order to support livestock costs etc.). If you are a small producer experiencing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 disruption, please get in touch and we can talk about how we might be able to support you.
The fact is, the more money we raise, the more producers we can support, and the more food can be distributed to those in need.
For example a donation of £10 can provide one of the following:
1. Twelve families with 2 litres of milk
2. Five families with enough cheddar, rich in calcium, protein and good fats to last a week.
3. Seven families with a packet of Feta or Halloumi made from the best British sheep's milk, even higher in protein, fat and calcium than cow's milk.
Fare Share have the means to move large volumes of stock, but we need to be able to purchase it in the first place. We’re also dedicated to paying a fair price for the stock, rather than rock bottom prices typically paid by large retailers and supermarkets.