<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Cheshire Life today click here

How the milkbot in the Wirral could change the way you buy your milk

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 June 2017

Jon Appleby stood amongst some of the Friesian herd

Jon Appleby stood amongst some of the Friesian herd

Archant

Jon Appleby’s Wirral business is thriving by attracting local people to enjoy both his produce and his land. Martin Pilkington reports.

Milk being dispensed from the vending machine, Milkbot Milk being dispensed from the vending machine, Milkbot

Serving neighbouring communities is nothing new for the Appleby family. Jon’s father Roger first leased Greenhouse Farm in Greasby from Lord Leverhulme in 1961, and from the outset its free-range eggs have been sold to nearby shops, cafes and restaurants.

The supply chain to local consumers is even shorter now for some of the milk from their 160 dairy cattle, thanks to their ‘milkbot’, a vending machine selling raw milk to the health- and taste-conscious.

‘I’ve always been keen to sell our milk in the same way that we’ve sold quite a few of our eggs for years, and the milkbot gave us the opportunity to offer milk to the local community in a convenient and green way, in terms of food miles and allowing people to re-use their glass bottles,’ Jon said. ‘It also means people can come to the farm so we could have the connection with the customers, and they can see where the milk comes from and how it’s produced.’

Appleby's Farm Appleby's Farm

Free plastic bottles or very smart glass ones for £2, complete with the Appleby’s milkbot logo, are filled from the machine, which delivers a minimum of two litres at a time. ‘We spent a lot of time trying to work out our brand, and ended up with a robotic looking cow because of the milkbot,’ he said. ‘The glass bottles are greener, people stick them in the dishwasher when they’re empty and re-use them next time.’

Interest in raw milk – that’s milk that hasn’t undergone pasteurisation – has surged of late for health reasons. ‘We’ve got customers who like it because it’s thought to be good for eczema and asthma, and somebody came who said it helps their arthritis,’ Jon added. ‘The probiotic bacteria are still in it – when you pasteurise milk it kills all that bacteria, and then people buy expensive little bottles of products which add bacteria back in! Quite a few of our buyers are lactose intolerant so can’t drink supermarket stuff because while lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, is present in raw milk, it’s denatured when you pasteurize it.’

To sell raw milk the farm has to be licensed by the Food Standards Agency, which tests the herd and milk every couple of months, on top of which Jon sends samples to the National Milk Laboratories, an attitude perhaps rooted in his scientific background; he is a former biology student at the University of Birmingham. ‘The last thing I wanted then was to be a farmer, he said. ‘I worked as a buyer for Bass, and was spending too much of my life on the M6. About 20 years ago my dad was considering retirement and I was getting married, so gave it a go.’

Milk in a glass bottle Milk in a glass bottle

As Jon speaks, a regular customer from Wallasey, Anthony Miller, arrives to re-fill his glass bottles. Anthony offers his own reason for buying aw milk. ‘I remember as a lad getting lovely yellow cream on top of the milk, so when I heard about this I thought I’d give it a try. It tastes better, when you have your cornflakes in the morning and put the top-of-the-milk on them, it’s like it used to be in the fifties and sixties.’

That golden cream rises to the top because the milk is not homogenised. Jon suggests other reasons for the taste difference, particularly that only that day’s milking is sold via the milkbot, making it far fresher than the milk most of us normally enjoy, and that nothing is removed from it. And he farms mainly Friesians, smaller and less productive than most dairy cattle in this country, but suited to feeding on grass year round – even when they’re brought inside for the very coldest months they live on silage.

‘There’s a little niche starting of free range milk, which is how we’ve branded our milk now as it’s from a low-yielding, extensively farmed herd,’ he said. ‘People who buy from us are interested in the fact that our cows are grass fed, again that’s about the taste of the milk and its properties.’

Milkbot, the milk vending machine Milkbot, the milk vending machine

In the summer Jon hopes to hold farm walks, to be flagged up on his website, applebysfarm.co.uk, again as a way of building bridges to the surrounding communities. For similar reasons, and to help the farm’s income, he has established a five-caravan campsite with shower block. ‘Surprisingly we often get people from nearby towns staying here,’ he said. ‘Recently a group of mums and kids from four miles away booked – they wake up overlooking the fields and don’t have to drive for hours to do so.’

That extra local link is an unexpected bonus, but fits in with his determination to connect with North Wirral communities. ‘We’re a family farm, we treat our animals well, and showing that helps contradict negative press about some dairy farming. The greatest sight for me is parents and kids walking into the farmyard to buy their eggs and milk from their local farm.’

More from Food & Drink

00:00

New Brighton’s Blackberry Grove is just what the seaside town needs, writes Rebekka O’Grady.

Read more
Wirral Restaurants
Mon, 00:00

Putting the spotlight on retailers whose business is an important part of community life.

Read more
Macclesfield
Thursday, June 22, 2017

So does Grand Pacific in Manchester make you really feel you’re dining at an old colonial hang-out? Janet Reeder went along to find out.

Read more
Manchester Restaurants Asian Food
Thursday, June 22, 2017

Digest this mini review in 60 seconds

Read more
North Wales
Friday, June 16, 2017

The Stanneylands has just reopened its doors following a major re-vamp. Guests at our special lunch couldn’t wait to see the transformation, as well as taste some delights from the new menu, writes Janet Reeder

Read more
Cheshire Life Luncheon Wilmslow Stanneylands
Friday, June 16, 2017

Mark Ellis, a star of BBC’s Great British Menu and head chef at Peckforton Castle for nine years, is now going it alone with a new restaurant in Tattenhall, writes Paul Taylor.

Read more
Cheshire Restaurants
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Foodie event returns to Cheshire on 14th – 16th July

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

Knutsford has a always been a place for ladies who lunch, but afternoon teas are increasing in popularity.

Read more
Afternoon Tea Knutsford
Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chef Kevin Lynn is serving up the finest in modern British cuisine at Machine House in the little town of Rossett, says Louise Allen-Taylor.

Read more
Thursday, June 8, 2017

Jon Appleby’s Wirral business is thriving by attracting local people to enjoy both his produce and his land. Martin Pilkington reports.

Read more
Wirral
Monday, June 5, 2017

Jefferson Green has just opened his first restaurant in Knutsford and he’s already creating a buzz, as Janet Reeder discovers.

Read more
Knutsford Cheshire Restaurants
Friday, June 2, 2017

There are no nasties in these delicious sugar-free flapjacks made in Bunbury, as Emma Mayoh discovered.

Read more
Tarporley
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wilmslow Business Group hosted a Food and Drink Week, a lively programme of food-related events designed to encourage residents and visitors to discover the town’s dining scene.

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What goes on behind the scenes at this successful Cheshire company?

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Cheshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cheshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search