Transition Stroud Newsletter Editor Josephine Murray (JM) talks to the team at Stroud Micro Dairy.
See below for three things you can do today!
JM: What prompted the launch of Stroud Micro Dairy?
SMD: Stroud Micro Dairy (SMD) has had two beginnings – it was originally set up by Kees Frederiks and Alice Frederiks-Planel, who wanted to bring ultra local raw milk products, farmed using ethical and regenerative practices to Stroud, using a community supported agriculture (CSA) model. As TB is a real risk for raw dairy farmers, spreading this risk using a CSA allows producing this kind of product to happen. Fast forward to 2022, when Stroud Micro Dairy became the first co-operatively owned dairy in the UK, raising funds through investment shares in order to expand and upgrade the building and be able to grow as a business.
JM: Can you tell us more about the team at SMD?
SMD: Nat is our Herd Manager and in charge of our cows and the milking side of things. Harry works alongside her part time, mostly farm-side. Rachel is on finances, and I do a day a week mostly on sales and marketing. Then there is our Dairy Manager who is in charge of everything dairy side – making and bottling our products, keeping the dairy running in good order – looking after clients. We are excited that Charlotte has just been newly appointed in this role. We have Becky too, our delivery driver, taking our goods out to the areas we currently deliver to. Plus a host of weekend/relief milkers and back up delivery drivers. We have a board of directors also, who include Nat, original farmer Kees, and two previous dairy managers Silvia and Patrizia.
JM: how does your work at SMD link to sustainability and social justice?
SMD: A large number of our co-operative members (and therefore owners) are our customers, and social justice is inherent within the principles of co-operation. We farm using regenerative farming principles, looking to the health of the soil and the land. The pasture our cows are raised on is biodynamically certified, and our farming keys in with this. We are a cow with calf dairy, which is a high welfare approach that respects our herd’s natural instincts as animals.
JM: Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve achieved so far?
SMD: We have grown from 0 to nearly 300 subscribers to our products, using a subscription platform, and are growing the herd. We’ve increased the size of the dairy building to provide more space for making products in the future and a larger shop area. We’ve diversified the extra products we sell on site, organic sourdough bread, organic cheddar, local apple cider vinegar, etc. We feel that biodiversity of the land is improving – we are gradually seeing more clovers and other plants increasing or appearing. Becoming a co-operative through our share raise was a big achievement too!
JM: What are your plans for this year and beyond?
SMD: It’s been a hard year for many businesses and we aren’t immune from the price rises of raw materials and energy costs that have impacted so many. We recently raised our prices (they hadn’t gone up in line with market rates, and additionally raw milk costs more to produce due to the care that must be taken, and the farming methods we choose to use).
We’ve additionally had unexpected challenges with the herd which affected seasonal milk supply more than usual, and further, we’ve had some unexpected staff transitions. We’re still learning how to operate competitively and efficiently as a co-operative.
Addressing all these challenges (or opportunities!) is a big focus for us right now, but looking ahead to the future, we would love to have more community events for our subscribers and supporters, and provide opportunities for volunteers. We’re keen to diversify our own product range too, perhaps into butter and cheese, and to grow our herd further… we may even look at getting some pigs.
JM: What do you do when you’re not working at SMD?
SMD: Charlotte comes from a background in archaeology, and enjoys playing with her lovely dog outside of work. Harry comes to us from Ruskin Mill, enabling us to start hosting a work experience student once a week. He also enjoys leading green woodworking courses. Nat plays netball in a fun league and enjoys hiking and growing vegetables when she has the energy! Rachel spends much of her time supporting small agricultural businesses but also hangs out with her two wonderful kids, raises chickens, and is a gamer. Rebecca is also an improv performer and teacher, and had two minutes of fame recently when she performed morris dancing on live TV with Stroud’s own Boss Morris, during Wet Leg’s performance, at this year’s Brit Awards.
|Three Things You Can Do Today|
1) If you live in Stroud, you can sign up for our wonderful raw milk, raw milk kefir and natural yoghurt at our website www.stroudmicrodairy.co.uk It’s just a walk or bike ride from town, and we sell a small range of other products too. If you are on one of our delivery routes, then you can also pay a bit extra to get these goods delivered.
2) If you’ve got experience in dairy farming or a relevant skill and would be keen to volunteer then do get in touch.
3) We’re designed to be for local folks but if you’re from further afield you can also share our posts on social media where you can find us @stroudmicrodairy
Find out about more local Stroud Transitioneers
If you would like to share your sustainable living story, please contact Josephine on firstname.lastname@example.org