WHILE popping down to Tesco, Sainsbury’s or your local corner shop for a pint of milk is easy and cheap, it’s not always the freshest you’ll buy.

Most people in Stroud simply don’t have the option to nip over to a local farm and buy a couple of frothy bottles straight from the source – until now.

A new community-led venture is aiming to transform the way people and businesses in the Five Valleys get their milk, while also practicing regenerative agriculture.

Stroud Micro Dairy is a small, local enterprise being launched at Oakbrook farm, a small vale on Wick Street which was purchased by the Biodynamic Land Trust.

As one of only a handful of micro-dairies in the UK, this miniature farm is now the proud owner of seven grass-fed cows - and is only a few weeks away from selling its first dairy products.

The raw, locally-produced milk, yoghurt and kefir will be hopefully be sold to residents of the Stroud valleys as a community share-scheme.

“This is going to be Stroud’s only raw milk dairy, producing raw milk in Stroud for the people of Stroud,” explained the sole owner and farmer Kees Frederiks.

“We hope to be up and running and selling milk by the start of March. It’s a really small scale operation and one of the first micro dairies in the UK to work on a community share basis.

“Stroud has always had a great heritage for community agriculture. So we’re hoping to build on that.

“We practice regenerative agriculture which is a type of farming that revolves around biology and the sun to grow plant matter and soils, and to positively impact the soils, animals, communities and nature that surround us.

“We’re inspired by permaculture, biodynamics and organic farming, and bring all these ideas together to create a farm that has a positive regenerative effect on our land and local environment - doing more good rather than less bad.

“Plus the land is situated just 10 minutes’ walk from Stroud so when everything is set up people will be able to pop up to the farm and get their milk fresh that day.

“At the moment we’re hoping to produce 700 litres a week, and a community milk share is £1.50 per litre, per week.

“So far we’ve had around 40 people sign up, and we’re hoping to grow that number over the coming weeks and months so that we’re producing raw milk for 300 families in the Stroud area.”

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Kees, 33, was born in New Zealand, came from a farming background and learnt the trade by volunteering on a number of farms across the UK.

Before moving to Stroud in November 2015 he also spent two years in Ireland working as a herd’s manager on a successful grass-based dairy.

“We heard that the Biodynamic Land Trust were interested in supporting a dairy enterprise in tandem with Stroud Community Agriculture, and after many meetings and despite many swaps and changes, the project stuck.

“So I knew a lot about cows and milk, but there’s a lot more to setting up a farm,” he added.

“It’s been a real learning curve. Before that I’d had never dug a trench, lain water pipes, or built a website. So everything had to be built from scratch.

“Stroud Micro Dairy is a different beast to most dairy systems. Our priorities are environmental and social rather than commercial so we are running on a small-scale using our savings to set up the farm, with mobile infrastructure and a small carbon footprint.

“There will also be no parlour as we designed our mobile milking machine to milk out in the field - keeping as close to nature as possible and the cow stress free. Plus the cows will only be milked once a day and allowed to keep their calves at foot making it easier on the cow and farmer.”

The milk is then quickly chilled and left ready for people to fill their bottles at the farm.

The key to this milk is that it’s non-pasteurised and non-homogenised, which means it’s less processed and has not undergone the industrial process that breaks down fats, denatures proteins and changes the structure of milk.

Kees and other farmers like him believe this is healthier than industry produce milk, and that their method provides an ethical alternative to mass-produced dairy products.

“Hopefully in the next few years we will see a thriving community of six or seven different community agriculture enterprises and activities on this land” added Kees.

“We hope to be one small piece of this diverse community farm.

“The support and help we have received from friends, family and members of the community is heart-warming and we could never have done it without them.”

For more information visit www.stroudmicrodairy.co.uk/ Follow them on Twitter at @strouddairy

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