Banburyshire farm in 'life-changing' moment in a bid to stop milk wastage during lockdown
A Bloxham farmer is making a life-changing move away from commercial milk sales to avoid having to throw away thousands of gallons of milk during the coronavirus crisis.
Ben Coles of Park Farm plans to set up a bottling plant with milk vending machines and selling domestic supplies in a last-ditch effort to keep his dairy farm going.
"At the moment I am pouring 3,000 litres of milk away because of the closure of cafes, restaurants and hotels who are our usual customers. It is heartbreaking," he said.
Early explorations on the farm's Facebook page have resulted in some 500 responses from all around the country - all positive and encouraging him to go ahead with the project.
"I'm overwhelmed by the public response and that they want to buy direct and support a local business. With dairy farming you can't turn a cow on and off. The coronavirus pandemic has affected us massively. Our milk cheque will be about 45 per cent down for April's milk. It makes me wonder how we'll pay the bills," said Mr Coles.
"As well as individuals, lot of small companies have come to us from our post saying they want to buy from us. But there is a massive investment for this project and I am hoping the council will come out out as soon as possible to help get the environmental health permissions sorted out so I can be licensed for pasteurisation and bottling.
"Some of the milk would be in the vending machine and some bottled. We would be selling glass, dishwasher-safe one-litre bottles that people can use many times. Payment would be by card, contactless.
"It's a huge investment but we're the last standing dairy farm for some miles around and we've got to give it a go. It might take one to two months to get off the ground - hopefully sooner. But we're dependent on the council for granting the licence. I'm hoping this is a life-changing opportunity," he said.
"We would sell the milk here but it would also be sold at a neighbouring farm shop that has been very supportive."
The farm in Tadmarton Road, just outside Bloxham employs two members of staff. Mr Coles' father, who is semi retired, also helps out. People from all over the country have supported the idea and have encouraged the Coles family to go ahead with it.