A passion for dairy farming has led a couple from the North Coast to open an unusual business – a milk vending machine on the family farm.
Hestnutt’s Farm, located near Portrush and owned by husband and wife William and Alison Chestnutt, brings milk from the grass to the glass.
Dairy farmers are using technology to attract new consumer customers, with milk vending machines popping up across Northern Ireland.
At Chestnutt’s, the milk is heated at 63 degrees for 30 minutes, while at other butterries it is pasteurized at 72 degrees for 15 seconds, a farm-style approach that allows for a richer, tastier product.
Alison said: “[The milk] preserves the natural aroma and composition, as close as possible to what nature intended [as possible]. We wanted it to be close to raw milk, just safer to drink.”
Because the product has not been processed to the same extent as other types of milk, the fat molecules are larger, allowing the cream to rise and making it easier to digest.
William said: “It tastes very different to what you get in the supermarket.”
A liter of milk costs £1 and shoppers are encouraged to use reusable bottles. Flavored syrups can also be added to them.
“We started at £1 a liter three years ago and haven’t increased the price,” said William.
“Part of the reason [for that] is that, given the cost of living, it has become harder for people to justify buying a more expensive local product
“After Covid, people have become more aware of where they buy their products and want to support local.
“We hope it stays that way, but we understand that people may go where the lowest price is.”
Alison added: “Tesco and Sainsbury’s will be here in five years, but local businesses may not be.”
William and Alison grew up on a dairy farm and have been very supportive since starting their business.
“Our families are very happy to see that everything is going well. They always encourage us. They support us very well,” they said.
Social media is an important tool for the farm, both commercially and educationally.
“I feel that farmers have maybe alienated their consumers a little bit by letting supermarkets take control of food,” William said.
“This has led to a lot of false information being spread about how we farm and what we do.
“I love social media for the opportunity to reach our consumers and show what we’re doing here. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad press surrounding agriculture. It is driven by external orders.
“We’re not going to say we’re perfect—we’re definitely not carbon neutral—but we’re trying to do things that will improve that.”