Hello and welcome to our Advent newsletter!


This month we've made it a Stroud Micro Dairy Special, in honour of the exciting new developments taking place for Oakbrook Farm's largest tenants. We hope you're warm and well, and enjoy reading.


Stroud Micro Dairy are already award winning pioneers of small scale dairy. Now building on this important work, SMD are transforming their business model and through this fundraising will become the first community-owned dairy in the whole country. Read on for more plus a behind the scenes look at caring for Stroud's finest cows, including the making of that delicious kefir…

Firstly, here's a summary of upcoming Events and Volunteer Opportunities 

  • On Monday 27th December we will be singing to the Bees & Beasts. Please join us for some festive cheer as we sing Christmas carols to the creatures of the farm. A family friendly event starting at 5 pm. Please note car parking on site is extremely limited, please only drive if you have no other option.

 

  • On Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th December we will be holding afternoon Land Work parties. If you want to get your body moving after the Christmas celebrations we would love your help on one or both days erecting our new compost toilet on the Haven Field. All instruction provided but this work suits those who are physically fit and happy using tools. From 1 – 4 pmwith mince pies and hot apple juice provided!

  

  • On Monday 6th January we will be completing the traditional Three Kings preparations, involving stirring and spraying biodynamic treatments in readyness for the coming year. If you would like to take part get in touch for specific timings.

 

  • Then on Saturday 15th January from 10 am until 2 pm we will be holding the first of our monthly Saturday Land Work Parties of 2022! As we head into the New Year we are excited to provide this monthly opportunity to get involved in the farm whilst keeping fit, learning skills and meeting wonderful people. We would love to see you, to be repeated on the third Saturday of each month.


Remember you can get in touch at any time via admin@oakbrookfarm.org.uk.

STROUD MICRO DAIRY – The UK's first dairy co-op!

Kees Frederiks was a founding Director of Oakbrook Community Farm as well as founder and now co-owner of Stroud Micro Dairy. In this Q&A he explains more about why small-scale dairy is better for everyone. Keep reading to find out how you can become a co-owner too! 


How and why did you get into Micro-dairy farming? 

   "I grew up as a dairy farmer's son – yet for a long time I vowed never to get into farming. Like many of us I was following my environmental concerns by trying to reduce my impact, but then I discovered that you can have a net positive impact through regenerative farming. Then the possibilities started to unfold!


   The land was available here in Gloucestershire as well as the people who were excited about doing things in a maverick way. You could call it community scale farming rather than micro dairy farming. Land doesn’t just need life within it and on it – the community it's linked to is vital too."


SMD is smaller than traditional dairy farms. Is that the only difference?   

"Size is only one of the differences. 

1. We sell direct shortening the link between people and the source of their food. You can come see the cows that provide you your milk when you collect.

2. Quality – we produce raw milk from cows that are out on grass all year around. We don’t pasturise, homogenise, take cream out or add it back in. It’s milk as it should be – just chilled and you can taste it. 

3. Our size allows us to work with innovative welfare practices such as calf at foot, so our calves stay with their mothers rather than being seperated. Who doesn’t want to see mum’s keep their calves? Yet there are only a handful of us that do this in the UK."

What about environmental impacts? 

   "The positive impacts of our approach are several. Now that we've been on the land for several years we can start to see the changes on the ground. The grass growth is better and is more diverse, parts of the farm that were down to maize and wheat are now seeing soil life return and with that the building of fertility and soil carbon. We are part of the Soil Associations Carbon Assets for Soil Health (CASH) programme to measure what we do." 

What will change now that you're a Co-op?

   "The vision remains true to when we founded SMD with one really positive evolution. Sustainability and resilience are not suited to individualism. We are changing from a CSA that has many members and one farmer/owner to a co-operative where there are many members and also many owners (with all the link, skills and resilience that this brings). As we expand we can grow and diversify, for example by offering dairy making workshops." 

Oakbrook Community Benefit Society invite you to read below and consider investing and becoming part owner of Stroud Micro Dairy!


We at OCBS support Kees and the Coop in their endeavours and the principle of this share issue, however please note that we accept no responsibility for any aspect of this share issue which is unregulated and draw your attention to the statement in the share offer; Do not invest funds you cannot afford to loose.

The SMD Share Offer is now live!

We are Stroud Micro Dairy, an award-winning small biodynamic dairy farm. We farm to heal land. Soon, we will also be the first UK dairy in co-operative community ownership. At this crucial and exciting time we are looking to raise £210,000 to change ownership, expand, better our systems, and continue our work regenerating land.

We strongly believe that community ownership of food supply is the future. But we can’t do it without your financial support. For that support we are offering:

  • up to 3% interest
  • potential for EIS tax relief on your investment
  • option to get your interest paid in kind with dairy produce

This share offer will enable us to:

  • become more resilient through better wages, more efficient infrastructure and broader support
  • Increase the number of families we can serve
  • increase the possibilities for interaction with the farm
  • increase the range of dairy that we produce
  • convert Stroud Micro Dairy to community ownership securing raw milk in Stroud for the long term.


The full share offer and supporting documents are on our website at:www.stroudmicrodairy.co.uk/coop

From Field to Fridge 

Whereas most dairy farms are not accessible to the general public, the open format of Oakbrook Farm allows people to get much closer to the SMD herd. If you talk a walk through the farm you can see the cows grazing their 30 acres here, and the dairy team doing the care-taking, milking and processing which all happens on site. Below colleagues Nat and Sylvia give a little insight into their routine…

We start with the days preparations. 

Producing milk in colder weather creates a high energy demand on the cows, so after milking the cows get a high energy snack of turnips and kale in the brassica field during winter. They strip graze a fresh section every day, so we get this ready for them and then bring the cows in from the field.

Next up is the milking, 4-5 cows at a time (being careful you've got them in the right order, or they kick up a fuss!) We're very fastidious when cleaning the udders for milking, which is very important when selling raw milk.

At the moment we have two calves that have been weaned (at 6 weeks old). They spend time with their mothers every day after milking, for nursing and some cuddles. 

The cows are happy to follow each other after milking down the track to the brassica field, as they know a sugary turnip treat awaits.

Sylvia manually transfers the day's milk from the chilled bulk tank to the dispenser every day, and bottles by hand for deliveries.

When making kefir and yoghurt, monitoring the temperature of the milk is critical to getting a good set.

After fermenting is fully complete, the kefir is strained to remove the grains. 

In the winter, after the cows have strip-grazed a new patch of brassicas, they move back to the bale-grazing field, where we make sure everyone has access to silage by providing 3 ring feeders. These get moved by hand to a new bale when empty, to make sure that even the cows lowest in the hierarchy have access to food straight away.


Moving the feeders is a good mini-workout which gets the blood flowing in cold weather!

After cleaning the tanks and milking system, Sylvia does the days deliveries to Stroud, Painswick and Cheltenham, and then washes the bottles and yoghurt jars she picks up from the delivery rounds.

Some weekly jobs outside include adding wood chip to the collecting yard where the cows wait at milking time, collecting brewer's mash from Stroud Micro Brewery, and updating herd health records.

Spending time with the young cows builds trust! 


If you would like to volunteer with SMD, or join us on a morning walk to bring the cows in for milking, contact kees@stroudmicrodairy.co.uk 

Thank you for reading, we hope you've enjoyed this SMD special. On behalf of the Oakbrook Board of Directors, a sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to the life of the farm over the past year, with it's particular challenges and opportunities!


We look forward to making more progress and spending more time together as a community in 2022. Until then have a wonderful winter.


Leigh, on behalf of OCBS