FAQ WITH JESS
What’s the size of the farm and how many cows do you have?
Our Farm is 225 acres-located just between the Gloucester sharpness canal and the river Severn. It is a very pretty place with lots of hedgerows, ancient orchards and woodland. We milk 70 cows (who we refer to as the ladies!)all of whom we care for ourselves on a daily basis.
Why is it so important to you to be organic?
‘Hardwicke Farm’ is a gorgeous, timeless place of traditionally rotated and farmed pasture intermingled with woodland, oak trees, orchards and endless ancient hedgerows. My Grampy John Vaughan first came here in 1956. It has always been farmed in a traditional, extensive way, even though we have witnessed many agricultural changes, not least in recent times-and we would hate to see that change.
Organic farming has no quick fixes - it is about keeping things simple and maintaining the intricate balances of the farm in a natural, cyclical way. We make use of some of natures clever systems of building and maintaining soil fertility and helping crops prosper by natural means. It is so easy to detrimentally damage such finely tuned ecosystems through external inputs of farming-and we are very careful not to do this.
What else makes you stand out from other dairy farms?
Tell me more about your cows and calves
Looking after our Ladies and every animal here is the reason we do what we do, and we take huge pride in doing the best we can. Always having access to the outdoors, even in winter, and having backscratchcers, adlib food, entertainment, and interaction with their friends is paramount. Our ladies live in a small herd who are moved around the farm between pasture, housing and milkings as one social bunch. Every cow has her own personality, and we milk them, move them and tend them every day. They know us and we know them very well.
Our Ladies do not have their first calf until they are fully mature themselves, at around 3 years old. Our bulls who live onsite are called Curly and Diesel (they can be regularly found featuring on our social media pages!). Our ladies are not pushed in their production, leading a forage based organic lifestyle, and an extended lactation is encouraged, with no need for calving annually. These factors we believe contribute to why our ladies live a very long time-up to 3-4 times the national average age for a dairy cow. We think of them more as business partners and pets. Similar to which, decisions are made based more on animal welfare than commercial gain-I have many retired elderly ladies at the farm.
Our Calves, both male and female, are all welcomed and all treated equally. They are raised alongside one another as brothers and sisters on organic milk for 4-6 months until they themselves start to favour the hay and nuts they will always have had available to them. Slowly they start to wean themselves onto a more adult diet, as their rumen develops and they mature-avoiding any stress or sudden changes. Our nurse cows (who are our ladies who are particularly fond of motherhood) help us raise our calves under our watchful eye.
After being raised on milk, our boys go to live their lives on another farm in the village, in their social group, avoiding markets. Their welfare is important to us and it is important to know that they will enjoy good long lives being cared for by a friend we know personally. After 2-3 years they will eventually be taken to a local slaughterhouse by him-avoiding excessive travelling. For so long as people eat meat, it is our responsibility to ensure every day of that animal's life is a good one-and it is up to consumers to source their meat from as ethical sources as they have available. Our boys are always treated with respect and have good lives, never travelling far. Meanwhile, the little ladies are growing up on the farm, with their kindergarten years being spent at a leisurely pace at pasture until they themselves join the herd as fully mature 3-year-olds.
Why do supermarkets homogenise milk? And why don’t you?
We do not homogenise our milk because we want our milk to be as natural as possible and taste amazing! Being bottled onsite and on shelf within 4hours of leaving our ladies we have no need for any shelf-life extension. Many people comment our milk is like milk from their childhood, with a cream line(if that is what you like!) and flavour that changes with the pastures and times of year. Even our processing plant is gravity fed-meaning that the milk is not damaged by excessive pumps or processing. It is far more than just the white stuff! Homogenisation was developed to benefit the milk processor not the consumer, whereas pasteurisation was developed to protect consumers against pathogenic bacteria. It is homogenising that makes milk taste bland and not full of flavour as it should do-being developed so that dairy produce lasts longer. Being an inherently short life product creates problems when you are trying to shift large volumes of milk many miles, to many different factories-then onto shops, as is now common place in the mainstream supply chain. Consumers want and expect a long life product, and as it realistically takes a while to reach the shelf, the only way is to alter it so it lasts longer.
Homogenising reduces the fat particles, by forcing the milk through very fine holes at extremely high pressure to such a fine extent they no longer separate out. The process ensures the milk lasts longer and is why most supermarket milk is very white in colour not a natural creamy one, and also why there is no cream ‘line’ in the milk. It also means it does not absorb smell as readily - one of the main signals that dairy produce is really past it’s best. Homogenisation also makes digestion almost impossible and is a major reason why some people cannot tolerate cows milk, it is not the milk itself but the homogenising (a huge amount of people who think they are intolerant to milk are actually fine with ours!).
There’s a lot of talk in the press about raw, unpasteurised milk at the moment. What do you think of the pasteurisation process? Would you ever consider supplying ‘raw’ milk?
Is dairy good for you? And what do you think of people substituting cow’s milk for rice milk, almond milk or soya milk when they don’t have intolerances, because they think it’s healthier?
Is your milk sustainable and do you use plastic packaging?
We can deliver more from one vehicle without multiple trips due to excessive weight
It is suitable to be sold in a retail situation and transported by customers home
We do not use extra energy in the extensive sterilising facilities required for glass.
What other products do you produce?
Alongside our award winning organic unhomogenised skimmed, semi-skimmed, whole and Special breakfast milk and cream ,we produce an increasing range of cultured products.
Our organic cultured buttermilk is achieving rave reviews with chefs nationwide and has gained the ladies their 70th Great Taste Star. Perfect for extra fluffy pancakes and delicious baking ,or marinading meats to improve tenderness and flavour, it is an asset in any kitchen.
Our live luxurious natural yoghurt has nothing added, no sugars,sweeteners or stabilisers. It is simply made onsite using our unhomogenised organic milk to produce a rich and intense natural yoghurt. 3 stars in the great taste awards and world top 50 food accolades go some way to prove it really is quite special.
To purchase our other produce online (if you are not lucky enough to live near any of our wonderful stockists!) please head to www.naturalgrocery.co.uk with free delivery alongside other groceries over £40 nationwide.
If you own a business that may like a regular supply of jess’s ladies produce, please do get in touch with us.