Harborough dairy farm installs milk vending machines for customers

Caroline Barbour with the milk machines in Burton Overy. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
Caroline Barbour with the milk machines in Burton Overy. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

We all know where milk comes from, don’t we boys and girls?

That’s right – the supermarket. Typically, rather bland homogenised milk in one-litre plastic containers.

Caroline Barbour with George 6, Arthur 4 and Charlie 5 months and Ramona the cow. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Caroline Barbour with George 6, Arthur 4 and Charlie 5 months and Ramona the cow. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

It’s so cheap it puts UK dairy farmers out of business; more than a quarter have gone in the last decade. And it tastes... adequate.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Barbour family, from Burton Overy, between Market Harborough and Leicester, does milk rather differently.

They want people to buy “real milk” directly from their farm – Kingarth Farm on Main Street, Burton Overy – on the left as you enter the village from the A6 side. Open 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

And they’ve just invested in two “money in, milk out” Milk Vending machines, enabling the farm to sell their milk to the public in glass bottles.

“We’ve been selling milk from the farm for two years, but we’ve only just got the milk vending machines” said Caroline Barbour.

“Now you can get milk from us in glass bottles, which can be recycled.

“But just taste our milk – that’s the key – and you’ll see it’s completely different from watery supermarket milk.”

The Barbour family have been milking cows at Kingarth Farm in Burton Overy for more than 100 years.

Fourth generation farmers Peter and Caroline Barbour started selling milk direct from the farm gate, partly in frustration at getting as little as 19p a litre from their milk buyer.

“We started to bottle the milk ourselves in plastic bottles and sell it through an honesty box” said Caroline.

The venture was an immediate success with sales now in excess of 120 litres per day.

It’s still a small per centage of the farm’s 3,000 litres a day.Much of it now goes to make Stilton cheese for Tuxford and Tebbutt in Melton Mowbray.

Kingarth milk is free-range, as the farm’s herd of a hundred pedigree Holstein milking cows graze outside for at least six months of the year.

Caroline said: “We pasteurise the milk on-farm but do not homogenise (it breaks down the fats in the milk) , so - unlike supermarket milk - the cream rises to the top.

“This has many health benefits. It’s also very different from the milk you get in the supermarkets. We call it real milk”.

The farm produces whole milk, semi-skimmed and double cream all on sale in the “Milk Shop” which was the farm’s old bulk tank room before the new milking parlour was fitted four years ago.

Kingarth milk is never more than 24 hours old, said Caroline, and it is sold for £1.10 per litre.

It’s good for the customer, says Caroline, and good for the farm - because it’s up to 90p a litre more than they get from bulk selling.

The milk will keep for eight days from fresh, but can also be frozen.

“We sell Kingarth glass bottles for £1.50 in the Milk Shop” added Caroline. “We have sold over 1,000 of these already. Plastic containers are also available.

“Customers even bring their own containers to vend milk into.”

So buying from a local farm, say the farmers, is about reducing food miles, supporting local farmers, seeing where the milk comes from, and getting a better, fresher, free-range product.

Caroline said: “There is more awareness about where food comes from nowadays.

“Customers can see our cows when they come to buy milk, the fields they graze and their winter housing.”