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A monthly newsletter brought to you by Free Range Dairy Network
Volume 1, Issue 11
June 2016

Editor’s Comment


One thing I love is the opportunity to get out of the office and into the fields with the cows. It seems I’m not alone. We had a great turn out for our first Free Range Dairy Farm Event held on the Hobbs Free Range Dairy Farm in Elsmore earlier this month.

Jenni Hobbs, the farmer, has recently posted a new blog on the website. It’s a timely reminder that although the dairy crisis isn’t in the news at present, it hasn’t gone away.  Many farmers have been going into debt to keep their dairy farms going and as the crisis continues they have no choice but to sell up and give up on their family business.

An environmental audit on soil health has been published this month stating ‘Defra’s current ad hoc approach to conducting surveys of soil health is inadequate.’  Failing to prevent soil degradation could lead to increased flood risk, lower food security, and greater carbon emissions.

We also have a new supplier of Pasture Promise free range milk on board, Budgens in Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire, and reports are the milk is flying off the shelves.


Best Wishes,

Carol Lever
Director
Free Range Dairy Network CIC



You can follow us on
@freerangedairy  freerangedairy_cic
 

In this Issue


1. Free Range Dairy Farm Event

2. Report on Soil Health

3. Farmers blog

4. #180days

 

Free Range Dairy Farm Event


We held our first event on June 9th and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sun shone, the grass looked lush and green and the cows happy to be out in the fields. We had over fifty people come to the event, all eager to learn more about Free Range Dairy Network and what we stand for. We had some of our supporters like The Breakfast Club there as well as others wanting to learn more about Pasture Promise free range milk such as Waitrose and Fortnum and Mason.

Behind a great fun day out is a serious message, we’re trying to bring positive solutions to an important industry that seems to be putting its head in the sand hoping the crisis will just go away. Decisions such as selling milk as a loss leader by supermarkets, farmers encouraged to increase production when the markets weren’t there as well as consolidation of processing meaning most milk is processed by either Muller or Arla have all contributed to where we are now with our dairy industry. For the future we need new solutions and I hope Pasture Promise free range milk will be part of that. Free Range Dairy Network doesn’t have all the answers but people want milk from cows that graze, they want to support local farmers and think milk is too cheap – under the Pasture Promise label we’re just giving people what they want and offering a positive path for dairy farmers.

We had a presentation from Alyx of World Animal Protection about their Full Fact Milk Campaign  as well as Martina from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, who are big supporters of Free Range Dairy Network. It was great to engage with people interested in finding out more about where their milk comes from and we had some interesting conversations over a fantastic lunch, all prepared by Jenni. We even had the first ever free range cakes made with free range eggs and butter made with free range milk.

We’re now looking forward to running a similar event in August with our farmers in Yorkshire.
 

Report on Soil Health


A new report by the Environmental Audit Committee on soil health has found that the Government’s ambition to manage the UK’s soil sustainably by 2030 will not be met unless further action is taken.

Soil plays an important part in storing carbon that otherwise would be released into the air, storing three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. Soil degradation also leads to increased carbon emissions and could speed up climate change. The UK’s arable soils have seen a worrying decline in carbon levels since 1978, with widespread and ongoing decline in peat soil carbon.

The report calls on the Government to set out specific, measurable and time-limited plans to increase the amount of carbon retained in soil, to help meet the plans it signed up to at the Paris climate summit.

At present the Government relies on rules linked to farm subsidy payments to regulate agricultural soil health but MPs warn these rules are too weak, too loosely enforced, and focus only on preventing further damage to soil rather than encouraging restoration and improvement. Something we plan to do with our farmers starting with a grass management workshop this July but moving to include soil and water management in the future. We believe that monitoring changes in soil health over time is the key to developing an effective way to manage soil health, especially in order to meet the Government’s stated goal to make soils sustainable by 2030.
 

Farmer’s blog


Jenni has written a new blog  which I think reminds us all that the dairy crisis, although maybe not in the media, has not gone away. When I’ve been at the farm she’s often told me about another friend and neighbour having to sell up as they just can’t carry on with the current milk prices.

We’ve also had feedback from others we work with that whenever there’s a decrease in the milk price they get a call asking - where’s all this cheap milk and can we buy some? In catering some people’s job is to search out the cheapest milk and things like animal welfare or sustainability don’t factor as much as price when doing the buying for their hotel chain or restaurants.

For some, price will always be at the forefront of their purchasing decisions, but they could find their customers care about more than just price. Sustainable Restaurant Association are running a campaign called Food Made Good and I think it’s important that people ask more questions about their food and their milk as we know first-hand what cheap milk is doing to the dairy industry.

Look at our map to find out where you can buy Pasture Promise free range milk.
 

#180days


The reason we’re promoting #180days on Twitter and Instagram is because unfortunately we’re already getting people copying the work we’re doing.  We believe that for milk to be free range, cows should spend a minimum of 6 months per year out on pasture, meaning they will spend at least half of their lives outdoors.

The copycats are going to propose 100 days but this means an intensive farm with a loafing area could call itself free range milk.  We believe that cows and people deserve a proper alternative to milk produced in large intensive systems and the Pasture Promise label will guarantee this.

If you support us on Twitter and Instagram, then please use #180days in your posts. You can also make the Pasture Promise and here are our standards, so you know the difference between what we believe should be free range milk and the imitators. 

 
If you have any stories to contribute then please contact Free Range Dairy at info@freerangedairy.org.
 
Copyright © 2016 Free Range Dairy, All rights reserved.




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