Dairy lovers across Southwestern Ontario soon can buy fresh milk on tap, straight from the farm.
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Golspie Dairy, a family farm and cheesemaker on the outskirts of Woodstock, plans to install a state-of-the-art milk vending machine at its new dairy processing plant this summer, believed to be the first of its kind in the region and possibly, the province.

“The local community and tourists can just come to our farm and fill up a bottle of milk that was produced that morning or the day before,” said Marja DeBoer-Marshall, operations manager and co-owner alongside her husband, whose family have lived on the farm for nearly 150 years.

“It’s definitely the freshest milk that you can get.”

Located in Oxford County — Ontario’s dairy capital — the 32-cow farm is building a dairy processing facility and retail store that’s set to open in July. The plant recently was chosen as one of 150 small businesses to receive a Desjardin GoodSpark grant, $20,000 of which will be used to buy and ship the machine from Switzerland.

More than 6,000 Canadian businesses applied, “so it’s incredibly humbling to be one of those 150 picks,” DeBoer-Marshall said.

While the fresh milk dispensary is nothing new for farmers in Europe, only a small handful in Canada own this kind of equipment.

Akin to a typical vending machine, customers insert their credit card or coins, choose between two kinds of milk — white or chocolate — and wait for the product to be dispensed. They can choose to bring their own bottle or buy a glass one at the on-farm retail store.

The machine has two options: “You can get pasteurized, non-homogenized … and then option No. 2 is chocolate milk — that same pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. But we’ve already done the work for you and mixed in the chocolate flavour to make it extra delicious,” DeBoer-Marshall said.

The idea to sell fresh milk on-farm had floated around for years, but DeBoer-Marshall and her husband’s plans to turn it into a reality started 18 months ago.

“We’ve been kind of daydreaming for the last five or six years about having this machine, and then it’s grown from that into other dairy products,” she said. “I learned how to make cheese, and here we are.”

DeBoer-Marshall said the decision to invest in new equipment came during a time when they “needed to figure out how to transition the business to the next generation and have it still be sustainable.”

On top of the dispensary, the pair will install a vending machine that offers customers various British-style cheeses. Both machines will sit outside their on-site retail store.

Customers will be able to buy farm fresh milk between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week. Prices have yet to be finalized, but DeBoer-Marshall said it would cost around $2 a litre.

With more than 300 milk producers across Oxford County, DeBoer-Marshall believes Golspie Dairy would be the first to offer the product directly to consumers.

“You can’t actually buy milk from any of them (milk producers) in Oxford County,” she said. “It all has to, more or less, leave the county, get processed and then get brought back here. So, it’s kind of cool that we’re going to be the first one offering county milk in Oxford County, processing it ourselves.”

Taking a chance on the new facility is a “pretty big leap of faith,” DeBoer-Marshall said, noting it’s required immense preparation, including meeting various health and safety requirements.

Nonetheless, it’s an investment she and her husband are excited to pursue.

“Friends of ours (who) have lived in other countries talked about how great these machines were. We’re really excited to bring that same technology (here).”

As one generation of dairy farmers see retirement on the horizon, who are the next generation farmers taking over the responsibility of feeding the world?

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