Why did you decide to open the milk hut at Chestnutt farm?
My husband and I saw Milk Vending Machines when visiting farms in Holland, we also saw them online and in agricultural magazines and were drawn to the idea. Our farm is situated on the North Coast, on the main road to Portrush, and we wanted to take advantage of this location as lots of people pass our farm everyday. William drinks a lot of milk and is passionate about making more people aware of the taste difference between farm fresh milk and milk in supermarkets. Our milk is gently pasteurised but not homogenised, meaning the fat hasn’t been broken down and the cream still settles on top. We visited farms in England who sell their milk via a Milk Vending Machine in January 2020 and, after this visit, we decided to go for it and we opened in July 2020.
Who buys your fresh milk?
We have built up a good base of regular customers from within the local area and further afield. A lot of our customers remember what milk used to taste like when milk was delivered in glass bottles and left at their doorstep. There are two men, who work for the council maintaining the coastline around Portrush, who come in every single day to get a litre of milk each. In summer, many families visiting the North Coast come to the farm to get milkshakes and it can get really busy. We didn’t know before we set up the milk hut that there would be such demand but, once we gave the local community the access to fresh milk, they came.
Have you seen an increased interest in sustainable food since the pandemic?
The pandemic made people think. More people are wanting to know who produces their food, how it’s produced or reared, and are more inclined to support smaller local farmers now. They are moving away from corporate and international businesses. Opening during the pandemic actually had a positive impact on our business, there were no events or activities running and very little open so people came out and got milkshakes. The Milk Hut is all outside so people felt safe and, as the vending machine is situated on the farm, they came for the experience as much as for the milk. It makes us so happy to see people enjoying our milk and visiting The Milk Hut and we hope it continues in years to come.
What do your customers keep coming back for?
We have found people enjoy buying the glass bottles. The ‘Mini Milk’ Bottles have been a real hit with children and the milkshake flavours we have available have been highly popular with all our customers – young and not so young! These are available in optics, we usually have about 6 flavours available and these can be added to the milk. We have also started doing a ‘Flavour of the Week’ which our customers are enjoying. Last year, we started selling Fresh Vegetables, through an Honesty Box System in ‘The Veg Box’, which has also been popular. We aim to source good local fresh veg, currently the majority of veg we are selling is Magilligan.