Spring water sales make more profit than dairy herd
By Nigel Burnham
and Johann Tasker
A FAMILY forced out of dairying by the farming crisis is to start selling water because it is more profitable than selling milk.
Richard Blomfield and his son Andrew are exploiting two natural springs on their land at Springhill Farm, Fylingdales, near Whitby, Yorkshire. They plan to pump the first water next week and are turning a disused cattle shed into a storage plant ready for distribution.
The family decided to get out of dairying last Christmas. Mr Blomfield, who had a back problem, was told by his doctor not to have anything more to do with farming. There were too many cows for Andrew to look after alone and low milk prices meant the family could not afford to employ anyone from off the farm to help out.
Mr Blomfield declined to reveal how much money he would make from the new venture. But he told farmers weekly: "It is fair to say that we will be selling water for more than we sold our milk but it is impossible to know what price we will actually get. We are not allowed to sell it retail from the farm at the moment but in the shops it will be selling for 30-50p for a 500ml bottle."
Farmers are paid about 16p/litre for milk which sells in the supermarkets for about 40p. The Blomfields 200-cow herd produced about 1.2m litres of milk a year. Their extraction licence, approved by the North Yorks Moors National Park authority last month, entitles them to abstract about 4.5m litres of spring water a year.
If things go well, the father and son team hope to bottle the water on-site at the end of the second year and create up to 10 jobs when the venture is fully operational. Mr Blomfield said: "It has involved a lot of hard work and detailed negotiations and I am looking forward to trying to make a success of it."
Val Dilcock, the national parks chief planning officer, said: "We want to encourage appropriate farm diversification wherever possible to help local farmers. We thought this venture could demonstrate one of the ways the landscapes products can be sustainably harvested and marketed and help to guarantee the future of the landscape."
A report conducted in another part of Yorkshire concludes that adding value through processing, direct marketing and signing up to farm conservation schemes are the most viable options for diversification. But tourism, until recently the most quoted form of farm diversification, is seen as having limited potential in the future.
The amount of bed and breakfast accommodation in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is now close to saturation point, according to Future trends in farming in the Yorkshire Dales, Craven and Richmondshire.
Farmers would be better off increasing the size of their holding or turning to organic production, it recommends.
Yorkshire farmers Andrew Blomfield (pictured)and his father Richard hope to be milking profits from water rather than cows.