Dairy farmers Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore were struggling to make a profit when prices slumped, so they decided to cut out the middleman and sell their milk directly to the public.

The Crickmores were the first UK farmers to install a vending machine selling raw milk at the farmgate.

They have built a loyal customer base – it’s not unusual for customers to embark on round trips of more than 100 miles to buy milk from the farm.

But they haven’t stopped there. Jonny has diversified into making milk, cheese and butter from their cows’ raw milk.

See also: Read about all the Diversification Farmer of the Year 2017 finalists

Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore

Fen Farm Dairy, Suffolk

© Tim Scrivener

Jonny consulted French cheese expert Ivan Larcher to ask him how to make Brie to rival the French. He travelled to eastern France and imported a herd of Montbeliarde cows, whose milk is renowned for making outstanding cheese. 

Winning Ways

  • Dairy innovators
  • Inspirational team leaders
  • Clear understanding of business costs
  • Willingness to listen and learn

With the help of a 30% Leader/Rural Development Programme for England grant they converted a dilapidated barn into an artisan cheesemaking facility.

Their Baron Bigod Brie, named after the 12th-century Earl of Norfolk and said to be one of Prince Charles’ favourite cheeses, has found the top end of the market.

It’s sold at farmers’ markets and Harrods, and served to British Airways first-class passengers and visitors at Royal Ascot and Wimbledon.

The Crickmores devote time in playing a real ambassadorial role across the cheese and milk sector.

They are helping others to sell milk from the farmgate, too, offering free advice as proud UK representatives of DF Italia Milk Vending Machines, taking an active role in working with the FSA on Raw Milk sales legislation, and in creating new innovations in cheese production with the Specialist Cheesemakers Association.

Finalists in the Diversification Farmer of the Year category were:

  • The Nicholson family, Cannon Hall Farm, Yorkshire
  • Simon and Jackie McCreery, Yester Farm Dairies, East Lothian