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'People seem to like the old, traditional way' - young farmers bring milk back to community doorsteps

A group of Young Farmers have listened to the needs of their local community and brought milk back to many doorsteps, as Kate Chapman found out when she spoke to two of them.

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Not so long ago, a milkman and his trusty float were a common sight across the country come early morning, as most homes relied on daily doorstep deliveries. Now, a group of entrepreneurial Young Farmers have brought the service back to the Llyn Peninsula, Wales, after a TV experiment showed there was a real demand for traditional milk deliveries in and around the area.

 

O’r Parlwr i’r Porch (From Parlour to Porch) currently delivers to Nefyn and the surrounding villages three times a week, thanks to nine members of Porthdinllaen Young Farmers Club, who first joined forces earlier this year.

 

Club chairman Dafydd Sion, 24, along with Caryl Jones, 21, Cai Jones, 19, Iwan Pennant, 21, Osian Parry, 24, Hywel Hymphries, 22, Tomos Hymphries, 20, Sion Williams, 21, and Daniel Davies, 21, were approached by comedian and businessman Tudur Owen about reviving the trade for just one day as part of his latest SC4 TV programme Tudur Owen a’r Cwmni (Tudur Owen and Company).

 

Dafydd, a full-time agricultural mechanic, says after carrying out research the group decided there was a real business opportunity for them to bring the service back, which they have grasped with both hands. He says: “We went around the area, knocking on doors, speaking to people and doing research. People were missing the old-fashioned milk round.

 

“I don’t know what it is, but there is something about it they like, having their milk first thing in the morning. “Our customer base is quite broad.

 

We deliver to the elderly and young families, in the town as well as more rural areas where people cannot get to the shop quite so easily. “We were all keen and, after the first day, got to thinking we have come this far so we have to give it a try.”

Building the brand

With people’s experience of shopping undergoing a transformation in recent years and high streets losing their character, the aim of the show was to find out if there was room to bring small traditional businesses back. The Young Farmers group was one of three groups given the chance to revive a trade which once upon a time played a central role in community life, with others including cider making and cottage industry clothes making.

 

The group, who are all school friends, as well as Young Farmers, began the venture in March when they each chipped in £50 to buy a battery milk float from an online site, travelling to London to collect it.

 

This has been their main outlay to date, alongside a small insurance premium. Rather than spending money on advertising and websites, the group uses free social media, such as Facebook, to promote what it is doing and interact with customers alongside a business phone line.

 

The milk the group sells comes from local dairy farmers, Sion and Nia Jones, whose daughter is a member of the Young Farmers Club. They began bottling milk from their 80 cows at Madryn Isaf Farm, Boduan, and selling it under the Llaethdy Llyn brand last year, offering the entrepreneurs a good deal.

 

In line with the group’s ethos, ‘Llefrith lleol i bobl leol’ (Local milk for local people), the milk does not travel more than 10 miles on its journey from parlour to doorstep, and is sold from the float at 65p for 500ml, £1.10 for a litre and £1.90 for two litres.

 

Dafydd and his colleagues began with a Sunday morning delivery, but have now devised a shift system with all members taking part, four at a time, with them making their rounds from 5am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so they can back in time to start their day jobs from 8am onwards.

 

Dafydd, who is one of the designated delivery drivers, says: “Our first round was on a Sunday morning. We delivered 70 litres and made £4.50. “Now we are selling about 450 litres a week, but the main problem we have is no-one is taking any wages yet. We just want to grow it so it can be sustainable for the nine of us.”

 

None of the Young Farmers have ever run their own businesses before, and Dafydd admits the whole process has been a steep learning curve, with a few teething troubles along the way. Due to their varied jobs and careers, which include chefs, farmers, teaching assistants and a beach warden, everyone has different strengths and skillsets to bring to the table.

 

Dafydd says: “The most difficult thing so far has been getting to grips with all the paperwork, such as bills, making invoices and taking orders. “Then there is keeping track of orders too, as people change them. They start with one thing, then realise they are having too much or too little. “We are still tweaking things.

 

It has been a real learning curve, but none of us have ever run our own business before and we all have other jobs. “This is proving to be an advantage too, as we are better and stronger together. Everybody has their own strengths and because there are nine of us, we are finding certain people fall into certain roles. “As well as being members of Young Farmers, we are all friends too. No-one is totally in charge, so we all decide everything together. It is very democratic.”

 

As the only female member of the group, Caryl jokes she was only drafted in to keep her colleagues in order, although, in reality, admits her organisational skills have led to her taking over the admin side of the business.

 

Caryl, who works as a teaching assistant during term-time and in a cafe during school holidays, as well as volunteering with a local lifeboat service, says: “They wanted someone to do the invoicing and orders and I am really organised, so it works well. “It takes me about three or four hours a week at the moment, but this is increasing as we are getting more and more orders.

 

I have helped out with deliveries too if they are short and usually do so once every two weeks. “Although we are not taking any wages yet, we have covered our costs and things are going really well. Our village is very small, so word of mouth has played a big part.

 

People seem to like the old, traditional way of having milk bottles on their doorsteps. “Everybody has Facebook nowadays, so having a page on there has been a big help too. Unlike a website, it is free and most people order their milk through the page.”

Expansion

As for the future, the team is keen to increase the size of its rounds, adding more days and more products to grow the enterprise. Dafydd says the group is hoping to invest in a new van to speed up deliveries and cover more ground.

 

He says: “The area we are covering is quite a rural one of about four miles, including Nefyn town and the outlying villages. “We want to expand – we have people from further away asking if we will deliver, so the demand is there.

 

“This is the problem we face now – taking the next step and taking it from where we are now. “We are starting to look at other products, such as eggs and bread. Really we would be interested in any local product and would be happy to support anyone who is producing locally.

 

“Generally, things are going well, and people seem to be getting behind us and supporting us.”

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