As part of World Milk Day, the Echo spoke with the dairy farmers and traders that are keeping the independent milk business going in the modern day.
Bradfields Dairy Farm in Burnt Mills Road, Wickford, has fallen on hard times after being in production for around 100 years.
Claire Garbutt, the dairy manager for the farm, said: “Numbers have dropped dramatically for dairy farms and we have struggled over the past five years more than we have ever before.
“We think there is only five large distributors in Essex, which is tiny compared to what there used to be.”
World Milk Day was established in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FOA) to celebrate the important contributions of the dairy sector to sustainability, economic development, livelihoods and nutrition.
Across 80 countries all over the world, 588 events were hosted as part of the day.
Although the industry is currently in its toughest ever time, farm shop traders in Basildon are still supporting their local producers.
The Burstead Farm Shop in Tye Common Road has worked closely with Bradfields farm for a number of years.
Daniel Smith, director of the farm shop, said the farm started to supply to the shop because of a family connection.
He said: “When they first talked about doing it they came and talked about supplying to us. We said we would support them in any way we can.
“They are slightly more expensive than the previous supplier we had but we are getting our dairy products from a local supplier. Milk has become a loss leader. We do not make a lot of money, but we think it should be locally made.
“The customers do have to pay more for it and we do sometimes have to let some go to waste, but the money is going to the farm.
“Our customers were reluctant at first because they were used to buying Dairy Crest milk, but that would just mean more money going to a larger supplier and that is not going to help smaller traders.”
In order to satisfy a need for change, Bradfields has chosen to diversify into new markets, outside of just milk.
The farm has now started offering a range of flavoured yoghurts, cream and hard and soft cheese in order to draw in more customers.
It even has a milk vending machine on the site which visitors can use to buy bottles straight from the farm.
Claire said: “We have diversified so we can show the public everything we can do. We have opened up the farm to people so they can see how we care for our animals.
“We are still working all we can to keep producing as many things as possible.
“My sister is awake every day from 3.30am milking our cows. We have not stopped wanting to keep the local milk trade alive.”
To celebrate World Milk Day and to show customers their farm, Bradfields will be holding an open farm event for the Raise a Glass campaign on June 10.
By: Sam Drury