Mobile processor gives Peak District farmers a boost

Dairy farmers in the Peak District have been given the chance to add value to their liquid milk and secure the future of their businesses with the launch of a mobile dairy processing facility.

Backed by Prince Charles and his charity Business in the Community, the Dairy Wagon will provide farmers with the skills and equipment needed to produce cheese, yogurt, ice-cream and butter on-farm.

The two-year project, which could roll out across the country after then, will allow local farmers to produce added-value products without the financial risk of investing in expensive processing machinery.

Designed by food engineers from Reaseheath College, the wagon, which can be hired for £70 a day, will be driven on to farms by a trained college technician. Farmers will then be taught how to process their own produce as well receive advice on marketing and packaging.

‘Positive futures’

Sue Prince, who runs a 37ha (92-acre) dairy farm with husband Terry in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, said the Dairy Wagon had given farmers in the region the chance to think positively about their businesses’ future.

“Like many farmers in the area, we were thinking about how we were going to wind the business down over the coming years. But now we are branching out and adding value to our milk, our children are showing an interest in coming back to the farm.”

Mrs Prince and fellow dairy farmer Sarah Helliwell came up with the idea for the Dairy Wagon in 2002, but struggled to find funding until Prince Charles visited the area in 2005. With support from his charity Business in the Community, Mrs Prince and the 13 other members of the Dairy Wagon Company secured £150,000 funding from the Derby and Derbyshire Economic Partnership and the East Midlands Development Agency.

Launching the project last week (29 June), Prince Charles said the Dairy Wagon was an innovation that he hoped would raise the returns of dairy farmers in the region. “I hope it will give dairy farmers what they need to make their businesses sustainable for the future and give new hope for the next generation.

‘Serious impact’

“While I congratulate retailers who are intervening to give a fair milk price, I can only hope the Dairy Wagon can make a real difference right here, right now.”

The Prince described the Dairy Wagon as the “second leg” of his efforts to help Peak District farmers.

Earlier in the day he launched Peak Choice, a farmer co-operative formed to promote and sell locally produced beef and lamb online.

The 14 co-op members are set to receive a premium over supermarket prices for their beef, which will be sold through a box scheme to people in the Peak District area.

Sheep and beef farmer and co-op member Nick Bonsall said the scheme would have a “serious impact” on his business and others in the region.