producing something very special
To your average passer-by, Trink Dairy is exactly the type of business that you would expect to see in Cornwall: a family run dairy farm nestled on the outskirts of St. Ives. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll discover Rachel and Chris Knowles are offering their customers far more than your standard pint of semi skimmed. Our Brand Consultant, Sophie, visited the family business to understand how an innovative approach to farming is keeping its cows healthy and happy, and why customers are travelling from all over Cornwall to buy their milk. Trink Dairy is part of just a handful of farms in the UK taking part in the Milk Vending Project. Funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the initiative is enabling farms to take a completely new approach to milk production, and at the same time, removing the stages of the supply chain between farm and consumer.
According to Rachel, “our customers buy our milk because they share our passion for good quality food and drink. They are looking for produce that is virtually unprocessed, local and environmentally friendly.” Trink Dairy’s produce ticks all of these boxes. Customers can buy their milk from a vending machine in the farm shop and it is starting to appear in local shops and cafes. The milk is pasteurised within a few hours of the cows being milked which is another draw for the food-conscious consumer. “The most exciting part is having our customers come up to the farm and actually see the whole process, from the cows being milked through to the milk being pasteurised and bottled. They enjoy buying their food from source. For us we are producing and selling straight to the consumer which is great. I think we probably never really thought about direct sales before but the vending machine makes it so flexible – the customer can come up and buy milk as and when they need it, knowing that it is fresh.”
Rachel describes their milk as “wholesome and full of dairy goodness the way nature intended, with all of the butterfat remaining it is still 96.5% fat free, it also contains vitamins, minerals and protein,” She is attributing the health of the herd to a high-quality product. “Our cows eat grass for over 10 months of the year so it’s their natural diet, not only that, they’re out and exercising all of the time. All of this adds up to a contented healthy cow and delicious milk.” Although only a small operation, the quality of Trink’s milk is causing ripples amongst the local business community, with cafes and baristas seeking a point of difference. “One customer came to us because he’d heard about our milk and how much better it handles in coffee. It’s great to develop that kind of reputation amongst the local community and to be contributing to another local business.”
It’s not just the distribution that’s different at Trink Dairy. The farm manages its grassland using a rotational grazing method in a similar way to James of Precision Grazing. During a tour of the farm, Rachel explains “We’ve got an extensive network of tracks around the farm to enable us to protect and effectively manage our grassland because it’s so valuable to us. What’s grazed now is being made into milk for tonight, the conversion is that quick. The tracks enable us to be more efficient and extend the season whilst protecting our most valued assets – our herd and our fields.”
Rachel and Chris’ vision has enabled them to achieve something truly innovative within the parameters of a traditional Cornish dairy farm. They have embraced technologies that have allowed them to diversify their product and captured the hearts of the local community. Although only a modest set up currently, the couple are developing the infrastructure necessary to liberate themselves from the challenges that are inherent with the UK’s dairy industry, and doing in a really special way.Rachel Knowles Owner
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