Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sheeps wool packaging.....we are about to start production of a cool bag....watch this space as its coming soon!
And what else have I been doing? Well the 6 remaining sheep have had a haircut and are looking trim, as is the orchard which had to be strimmed to find said sheep it had grown so long! the veg garden is a bit neglected but still full of potatoes, beans and other yummy stuff and the polytunnel full of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers!
Super helper Molly has decorated the caravan and we have become regulars at the local recycling centre....10 demi-johns for £1.15 being the best buy so far. Gallons of elderflower wine are bubbling away and even more gallons of elderflower champagne are maturing in bottles scrounged from the local farmshop restaurant. Rhubarb wine is next to be brewed and as for jam....a veritable tonnage has been made with bartered fruit.....we are not going to go short in the wine and jam departments!
I recently bought 6 ex free range unit hens for £3 the lot, they look pretty bald and ugly but we get at least 3 eggs a day so they are already paying their way, and having a better life!
Do I get time to sleep?......occaisionally! Wool is the main preoccupation with it being shearing time and lots and lots of wool enquiries! We are producing lots of fabulous wool insulation and incorporating a lot from local farms! We can safely say we are the only producer of woolly packaging that is fairly traded AND locally and ethically sourced....! Whats more it will contain more and more local wool.....today I took half a tonne from a local farm to add to the mix and some of it will feature in their farmers market boxes.....picture tomorrow!
I will post a lot over the next few days about our growing range of woolly products......keep watching....you will be inspired by 'Ewe boots'!!!
Friday, June 26, 2009
Sums up the compassion and thoughtfullness of a sad misunderstood man...RIP
Monday, June 22, 2009
Dairy farmers warn they are struggling to survive on what they are paid for milk. So who gets the money when you buy a pint?
Times are not good for many dairy farmers. The gap between how much it costs to produce milk, and how much they are paid for it, is being squeezed ever tighter. And one of the industry's biggest cooperatives has gone into receivership, leaving hundreds unable to sell what they are producing.
Milk is a staple of the average Briton's daily diet. According to industry figures, 98% of households in the UK buy the white stuff, and on average we each consume over two-and-a-half pints a week.
We pay on average 39p for a pint, according to the milk trade body, DairyCo. It comes to this figure by dividing the average cost of a four-pint carton in the supermarkets. So where does that money go?
Getting milk from a cow to the chiller cabinet involves the farmer, the processor and the supermarket. The first produces the milk, the second collects, pasteurises, bottles and distributes it, and the third sells it.
Each has costs and overheads to cover, from feed and vet bills for a farmer, to staffing and electricity bills for the supermarkets. When all these costs are taken into account, it's the farmers who are missing out.
Farmers made a loss of 1p for every pint they sold last year, according to DairyCo figures for 2007/2008. Obviously, this is an average across the industry. Some farmers, with more cost-effective operations, will be making money.
But no one disputes that times are hard, with the farm-gate price of milk - what the processor pays the producer - falling month on month. In May, it was down to just 23p a litre, on average.
"Prices are simply unsustainable. The average farmer is losing money on each litre of milk produced, leaving no room for reinvestment on the farm," says a spokesman for the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).
Processors on average make money from each pint they sell, but the story isn't straightforward here either. The Dairy Farmers of Britain cooperative (DFOB), responsible for 10% of UK milk production, went into receivership earlier this month.
The co-op had been struggling to pay its 1,800 member farmers a competitive price for their milk, and large numbers were leaving. It also lost the milk contract for Co-operative supermarkets.
The supermarkets' margin on fresh milk has increased steadily over the years, according to DairyCo figures. The big few enjoy considerable bargaining power with many of their suppliers, so can keep prices competitive for customers.
"Farmers have been placed under extreme pressure by retailers and the service sector for far too long to produce milk at the lowest price possible, and they continue to make a loss," says the RABDF's spokesman.
But retailers say paying farmers a fair price is important. While Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket group, will not discuss margins - "it's commercially sensitive," says a spokeswoman - in 2007 it signed up its own group of dairy farmers, paying above the market rate for their milk.
"We were credited with bringing up farm-gate prices," she says.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Taken from an article in the Western Morning News....
Read it carefully.....Lubborn Cheese...makers of Somerset Brie and Capricorn Goats Cheese has been sold......TO THE FRENCH!!!!
Now don't get me wrong I love France and as many will know spend a lot of time there and have a tiny house there but .......sell out to the French!
There were apparently several British bidders but the recievers of course sell to the highest bidder....
Could it be that now we will see Lubborn Cheese close as uneconomic and further imports of 'President' brie take over? Or will Somerset Brie just be anonymous with President brand on it?
Will milk be imported from France.....who knows....
All this has been so under reported its not true......
The writer used to be the SW rep for the NFU.....unless there are 2 of them?
His assertion that
"In an ideal world, there would be only one dairy co-operative in Britain, big enough and strong enough to do business with the supermarkets and other major buyers on its own terms.The collapse of DFoB takes us halfway there."just smacks of going back to the old Milk Marketing Board and its centrally fixed prices.....just like the Wool Marketing Board and you know how that monopolises prices and stops enterprise.....Yes the bigger farms will be ok but the small family farms will disappear and not a sound will be heard at their death....because most people will not know nor care, I could just sit and cry!
Come on all the folks out there.....those involved in transition towns, in permaculture, in going green, in becoming 'eco'........shout loudly about where your food comes from!
That is not, for a moment, to deny the very real human and financial cost of the co-operative's collapse. Scores, possibly even hundreds, of workers in its liquid milk business, face losing their jobs.
The average DFoB farmer member stands to lose £14,000 for milk delivered in May and the first few days of June, for which he will not now be paid, as well as investment capital of £25,000.
For some of DFoB's smaller members in the more remote areas of Wales, who may find it difficult to identify an alternative buyer, it could even spell an end to milk production. In total, DFoB's 1,800 farmer members will be around £66 million worse off.
That is money that the producer side of the dairy industry can ill afford to lose.
But there is, most definitely, another way of looking at it, and it is a perspective that is much more comfortably adopted from a South West standpoint – given DFoB's relatively small presence in the region – than it would be in the co-operative's heartlands of Wales, the Midlands and the North. At a strategic level, a rationalisation of processing capacity and a further concentration among the producer co-operatives was exactly what was required.
The disappearance of DFoB provides both, albeit in singularly brutal fashion.
The South West dairy co-operative, Milk Link, has already snapped up one of DFoB's most prized assets – a state-of-the-art cheese plant at Llandyrnog in North Wales – for what one must presume was a knock-down price. That will reinforce Milk Link's position as the number one player in the cheese market and, in time, give a boost to its membership as well.
The other remaining co-operative, First Milk, which operates in Scotland and the North, will also be seeking to cherry-pick the best bits from the wreckage of DFoB, to its own and its members' advantage. And OMSCo, the organic milk co-operative, stands to pick up most, if not all, of DFoB's organic suppliers, which will leave it that much stronger, as well.
There will, of course, be casualties. DFoB's ageing liquid milk dairies are unlikely to find buyers. But for all but the people who work in those plants, that too has to be a good thing, given that there is surplus capacity in the liquid sector, and that it was paying too much for these factories that got DFoB into trouble in the first place.
DFoB's only processing plant in the South West is Lubborn Cheese, at Cricket St Thomas, near Chard. It is a small, modern factory, making first-class products, including the award-winning Somerset Brie. Talks have been going on for some time on a possible purchase by the French dairy giant Lactalis, and even as I was writing this, word came through that the sale (which is actually outside the receivership) had been completed.
That must be good for the South Somerset dairy farmers who supply the plant and who I know take a fierce pride in its products, although whether Somerset Camembert survives in the hands of a company famous for its Le President brand of that cheese remains to be seen.
Of course, those dairy farmers still stand to lose tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid milk and now worthless capital contributions.
But there is another side, even to that unpromising coin. DFoB members were being paid what was comfortably the lowest price in the industry. Since the emergency price cut imposed last November, it has been running at between 2p and 4p below the level offered by other comparable buyers. At a differential of 3p, a million-litre DFoB producer will have been £15,000 worse-off than a Milk Link member of the same size over the past six months.
That will now change. Milk is in short supply, and the larger DFoB members in the more accessible areas are being offered good money to sign up with alternative buyers. There is talk of Dairy Crest offering 24ppl in Somerset, and of Milk Link being prepared to pay Llandyrnog suppliers 23.5ppl.
Writing on one of the online farming forums, one DFoB member has worked out that he will have recouped his milk losses from the receivership by Christmas, thanks to the higher price being paid by his new buyer.
It is important to recognise that the demise of DFoB is not symptomatic of wider problems, either in the dairy industry in general, or the co-operative sector in particular. What started the rot was when the co-operative bought the ACC liquid milk business for almost twice what it was really worth. What finished it was the loss of what had been the ACC contract to supply milk into the Co-op.
The moral of the DFoB story is not that farmer co-operatives don't work, it is that badly run farmer co-operatives don't work.
During the same period that DFoB has been on the slippery slope to receivership, Milk Link has been going from strength to strength, thanks to good management, excellent products, a sound strategy and a loyal membership who are, at last, beginning to reap a return on all of the money and faith that they have invested in the co-operative during some distinctly bleak years.
In an ideal world, there would be only one dairy co-operative in Britain, big enough and strong enough to do business with the supermarkets and other major buyers on its own terms.
The collapse of DFoB takes us halfway there.
One can but hope that the next major step towards consolidation is taken on the basis of carefully considered choice, rather than of harsh necessity. Because while the sacrifice of DFoB's suppliers and staff may prove not to have been in vain, it remains a very real sacrifice, nonetheless.
Anthony Gibson is a freelance writer and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Where do you think your milk comes from if you live in Britain? (and your butter and cheese).....its those lovely cows milked by those rustic fellows called farmers......? Or is it?? Do you care??
Well you should! Click on the link above to catch up on a scandal hitting the dairy industry.....and get up and do something.....email your MP, write to the PM, boycott the imports.....Um what imports?
Well.....let me explain!
Most of us drink or use milk, eat cheese, enjoy yoghurt and fromage frais etc....but do you know where it comes from, do you know what is happening to our dairy farms? This week 10% of the milk still produced in Britain was under threat with the receivers being called in to the group known as 'Dairy Farmers of Great Britain' (DFoGB) a co op dedicated to fair returns for its members. The reason was because they lost the contract with the Co-operative supermarket chain....a supermarket group that prides itself on its fair trade principles and ethics..........well I will not be going there anymore!
We are losing 2 dairy farmers a day, 10% have quit in the last 10 years, we have 200,000 less dairy cattle this year than last year. Many have been culled due to TB known often as the silent killer as its not reported the same way foot and mouth was, The average age of a British farmer is 58 years old.....so give it a few years and there will be very few family dairy farms left......
We eat a lot of Somerset Brie.....as do I suspect some of my blog readers....have you noticed its abscence in the last few weeks.....or Capricorn goats cheese...notably absent too....both made by the DFoGB group. It costs 27p per litre to produce milk, the farmers belonging to the group who were producing 10% of Britains milk are currently being paid 10p per litre......and have a look in the shop next time you buy milk......how much are you paying for it? Just think how much is going to the producer?
But of course we must not worry, because the milk bottles of Britain will not run dry.....they are importing record amounts of milk from Holland, Belgium and Ireland.........have we totally lost the plot?
Friday, June 05, 2009
I had a great couple of weekends recently. On Saturday 23rd May I was working all day on the Big Green Idea bus talking to folks about fibres and wool as well as anything related to eco textiles. It was a tiring but worthwhile day and lots of discussion was generated.
On Saturday 30th I was on a course in Cornwall learning to make biodeisel....well my van is a deisel van and I have wanted to do this for ages so bit the bullet and went. It was really good and I understood everything and made my own litre of the golden liqued!.........fantastic. I am now in search of 2 small bulk dairy tanks....one for me and one for Dick and Jim who were running the course. I am so chuffed as I had kept putting off the day when I did this course and I thought it would be too technical.....but its not and its amazing what you can do with an old hot water tank, an immersion heater, some pipe and a fish tank aerator! (among other things!)
I know I should have taken my camera.....but I was so engrossed in my task that I would have forgotten to take any pics!!