Posted by: hencorner | February 26, 2015

Is your milk Fairtrade this Fortnight?

Milking cow‘Get off your horse and drink your milk.‘*
 *John Wayne
It must have been over ten years ago when we profiled Fairtrade Fortnight at our church with a breakfast feast of homemade breads to accompany the Fairtrade selection of jam, chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar, etc. It tasted good and we felt good.

Then a friend asked me if our milk was fair trade and my response was a confused ‘You can’t buy fair trade milk, can you?’ my friend encouraged me to look into it and this conversation was probably the spark that began the ethos that we now try to live by at Hen Corner.

Whilst it is a very good thing to be supporting farmers in developing countries as they try to earn a living wage and we benefit from food that we just can’t grow here, it’s really important to look into the issues that our own farmers face here in the UK as well. I’ve written about this before, but sadly, it’s being reported, again, that the supermarkets are demanding lower prices per litre and pushing many farmers out of business. Farmers Weekly expressed concerns last month that we could lose 1,000 British Dairy Farms in the next 12 months based on the current numbers of herds being sold at auction as farmers sadly throw the towel in. So why this problem? To explain it simply, most of us buy milk on a regular basis and supermarkets are determined to keep this staple purchase as low as possible enticing us into their stores to spend more of our hard-earned pennies on their other stock. Those of us are who are choosing to pay a little bit more for organic milk allow some farmers to care for their herds in the best possible way and the extra income often helps the business stay afloat.

Sugar SnapBritain is an island, we used to be able to produce food for ourselves from our own green land, OK it wasn’t great during the war and you had to be creative with your ration book, but if we continue to import food that we can produce here, simply to satisfy our love of strawberries at Christmas and asparagus for New Year, we become less self-sufficient and more reliant on other nations to feed our growing population. Remember the sugar snap peas from Kenya that perished in its areoplane due to the Icelandic Ash Cloud in 2010? If anything is easy to grow here in England, it’s peas and beans (see mine, left!) This great article by Rosie Boycott, written at the time, sums up similar concerns, but things don’t seem to be changing. A recent report revealed by the National Farmers Union states that, at current rates, just 53% of the nation’s food needs will be met by produce from UK farms in the next 25 years. This concerns me very much. Do we as consumers understand the risks for our future, it’s food provision and it’s financial independence? We have power in our pound, can put our money where our mouth is, and ensure that our children understand the decisions that we are making.

So how do we respond to this? Well for us as a family, we try to produce as much food as possible from home; this helps us understand and value the hard work that goes into farming, appreciate seasonal food and save up to £1,200 a year. Then we try to buy as much food as we can from British organic farmers, via Abel and Cole and choose Fairtrade products, where possible, when buying imported foods. To help you, our friends at Country Living Magazine have outlined the milk situation and are naming the supermarkets that cover the cost of milk production, let’s do what we can to reverse this trend.

Maybe it’s time to ask Andy, again, if we can have a milking goat here at Hen Corner?

FFF Skylar

Coming up at the Corner

If you’d like to visit us here in London, we have courses running right throughout the year.  Families, Feathers and Fun are the next sessions coming up, kindly promoted by Country Living Magazine, and we are planning sausage making, family pizza, pasta courses and many more over coming months. Would you like to be amongst the first to bake in our new kitchen?

Other News:

  • We took the family to Chatsworth during Half Term and loved the free range chickens in the farmyard – we’ve got our eye on a few new breeds to try hatching soon
  • Our weaker colony of bees seems to have grown stronger over recent weeks and I’ve made up 20 new frames for the Beehaus, ready for a spring cleaning ‘Shook Swarm’ next month
  • West London Mum published this lovely article about us in Local Spotlight

Jobs for this week:

  • Approach local schools offering to bring chickens into the classroom for Easter sessions
  • Dress the raised beds with compost for warmth and nutrition
  • Start chitting some potatoes, ready to plant next month

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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Responses

  1. Very interesting article Sara!

    I buy my milk from Lidl as it is so much cheaper than Waitrose, but think I’ll switch back to Ocado for the milk too as I do most of my shopping there!

    Love Heike x

    • Thanks Heike, just those extra few pennies make a big difference to the producers…

  2. Thank you I agree. I try to grow what I can we don’t have the best weather in the Lakes, and I buy my milk from the farm in the next village. I just wish we could do a bit more to help.

    • Hi Kathleen,
      It sounds like you are doing your best and I’m sure your local farmer appreciates it!
      Sara

  3. Great post Sara. We get our milk delivered by a milkman from http://www.milkandmore.co.uk, he leaves it on the doorstep a couple of times a week before we leave for work.

    You may be interested to know that Ealing Fairtrade Group have organised a walk from Hanwell to Chiswick for Fairtrade Fortnight, Sat 7th March: http://ealingfairtrade.org.uk/2015/02/25/west-london-fairtrade-walk-update/

    • This sounds great, thanks Emily…

  4. Spot on Sara we import way to much and the sad bit the consumer is often unaware where the food is coming from. I have never liked milk even as a child, I must have been a nightmare for my mother trying to get calcium into me. But to think we will loose even more cows in our fields is a sad thought and it’s not just cows the sheep farmers are also at breaking point. Some of this land farmers use for sheep and cattle is not fit for anything else other than grazing and without the animals it’s hard to imagine what this green and pleasant land would look like.

    • Thanks Thomas, yes, it is all a bit worrying – I’m guessing that the average consumer hasn’t a clue as to what’s going on…

  5. Devil’s Advocate speaking. If it is so important that we support British farmers, shouldn’t they be doing their bit to support other British manufacturers? How many British dairy farmers are driving foreign cars these days? Nearly every dairy {and other} farmer in my area drives Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW, and Audi. All great British makes of car — not! Oh, and all rather pricey petrol guzzlers too, so they can’t be as badly off as they make out they are.
    Yes, it feels good to be jumping on the Fair Trade bandwagon, but let’s look at this from all sides of the coin.
    Just saying.

    • Thanks for this, I’m glad that you’ve introduced yourself as Devil’s Advocate!
      There are lots of issues that we need to grapple with each day, I’m just worried about losing our dairy farms, importing cheap milk from, say, Eastern Europe, then not being able to afford transportation costs as fuel prices increase… Baby & Bathwater?


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