One of the positives to come out of the coronavirus situation is how small rural communities have come together to support one and other. An area I’ve witnessed first-hand where locals have championed a rural business by visiting milk vending machines, which is changing the way we shop locally.
If you’ve never been to one, you can buy a reusable glass bottle and fill it up with milk to take away.
There are several reasons why people are enjoying this experience:
I caught up with two west country farms to find out more about the milk vending machine business and the impact it’s had on the rural community – Chloe Marsh from the Marsh family who have been farming at Eweleaze Dairy Farm Martinstown in Dorset since 1966 and award-winning farmer Matthew Senior from Eastfield Organic Farm also known as Holy Cow in North Perrot in Somerset.
Milk vending machines are still relatively new in the UK but they’re starting to pop up across the country and being active on social media really helps to get the word out there.
One of the main reasons why the Marsh family set their vending machine up was “To bring back the connection between the customer and the farm, to help the customer see exactly where their food is coming from.” They’re also keen to play a part in reducing single-use plastic, and during the first 6 weeks of business, they estimated saving over 14,000 of single-use plastic bottles being used which is incredible.
Matthew from Holy Cow who now has 3 vending machines across Somerset and Dorset highlighted how the diversification through vending machines support farmers with an extra income especially when the supermarkets can change the buying price from the farm. Something as a consumer you don’t always think about unless it’s highlighted in the media.
The initial set up of a vending machine is not cheap and can range from £20-50k and as Chloe told me “It’s a big investment and commitment with no real guarantee of success” – so support from the local community is vital.
Both farms have had incredible support from the local community during Covid-19, with Eweleaze Farm opening up in the middle of the pandemic. Chloe told us that their local customers “Love the idea of the glass bottles which reminds them of their childhood.” They believe this situation has made consumers really think about where their food is coming from and encouraged people to buy local.
Matthew at Holy Cow has even seen sales double at their vending machine in the village of Odcombe in Somerset. Social media has certainly played a huge part in spreading the word, and customers love to tag the farms in their milk photos on Instagram.
Organic vending machines are pretty spread out across the region and have their own local customer base. Other farms often think about setting one up, however, the setup cost and commitment can be off-putting, however, if proven successful, diversification could be a way forward for many farms in the future.
Personally, I enjoy supporting my local milk vending machine at Eweleaze and enjoy knowing I’m supporting a local budding rural business, reducing my single-use plastic consumption and the milk tastes amazing especially in a banana and strawberry milkshake!
Have you visited your local milk vending machine? What else do they sale alongside the milk? We’d love to hear from you, please drop us a comment below.
Thanks for reading.
Regional Reporter - South West England
Award-winning countryside & equestrian lifestyle blogger based in Dorset. Winner of the 2019-20 Haynet & MirrorMe PR Countryside Blogger of the Year Award. Celebrating everything there is to love about the Dorset countryside and coast. Blog posts range from eventing horses, paddleboarding, yummy cake recipes through to product reviews and interviews with countryside and equestrian brands.