Working together

Free Range Dairy in 2013

Dear All,

This post has also been sent as an email to farmers who have expressed an interest in learning more about Free Range Dairy and who provided contact details over the past year.

The ongoing crisis in the dairy industry has prompted initiatives such as the voluntary code of practice, which seeks to establish fairer contracts between farmers and processors and farmers are now being actively encouraged to consider setting up Producer Organisations, which could cover up to a third of UK production and negotiate milk prices on behalf of members.

Having established a core of producers who would like to achieve recognition for the free range milk production system they run on their farms, I would now like to move towards developing a market for free range milk, through raising awareness of how we farm and the benefits that this delivers to consumers, cows and the countryside. Collaboration amongst farmers is key to the success of Free Range Dairy and there is now an opportunity to secure funding to help us develop a co-operative structure.


The RDPE Dairy Fund

I am in the process of submitting an application for funding from the recently launched Dairy Fund from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which offers substantial funding for dairy farmers seeking to explore formal co-operation and develop marketing opportunities. A total of £5 million is available to the dairy sector and the stated aim is to “help dairy producers increase their competitiveness and achieve added value to boost their market returns”.

This aim will be delivered through grant support for the costs of exploring formal co-operation such as:

  • Bringing together those farmers with an interest in co-operation structures;
  • Enabling individual producers to explore the practicalities of formal co-operation;
  • Facilitating the formation of groups with similar objectives;
  • Supporting groups to formally establish develop or expand;
  • Pilot projects for innovative systems that add value to primary dairy produce;
  • Adding value projects by formal co-operation structures that will improve the profitability of its farmer members.


How can Free Range Dairy use Dairy Fund money?

To date in excess of 50 milk producers have made the Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise and signed up to our simple standards. This means we now have farmers actively declaring themselves free range and wishing to be identified as such, which is an important step in gaining recognition for the way we farm. It is now my aim to establish Free Range Dairy on a more formal footing and bring producers together to explore opportunities to add value to their milk. The recently launched Dairy Fund will provide funding of between £25,000 and circa £1 million pounds to applicants in one of the following categories:

  • Existing formally constituted groups / organisations;
  • An individual business (farming or non farming) acting on behalf of multiple  dairy farming businesses;
  • A group of individual dairy farming businesses.

I am submitting an application for funding to help us develop a market for free range milk and there are a number of areas under which I consider Free Range Dairy meet the criteria set out by DEFRA.

I would like to secure money to help us achieve the following:

  • Set up a formal co-operative structure that facilitates the marketing of milk for Free Range Dairy producers on a regional basis.
  • Register a Free Range Dairy certification mark that can be used by farmers marketing their milk as free range.
  • Create a central hub that connects farmers with others in their region who want to explore opportunities to jointly market their milk.
  • Develop a network for knowledge transfer relating to pasture-based milk production systems.
  • Provide education and information to consumers about the benefits of free range dairy herds and the milk they produce.


What is required from you?

Monies from the Dairy Fund can be used to help us explore how the above might be achieved in the first instance. This is very much about exploration – to highlight to Free Range Dairy members the opportunities to achieve real value for their milk and link them with like-minded farmers.

In order to maximise our chances of obtaining funding it is important to demonstrate that any monies awarded to Free Range Dairy from the RDPE will deliver tangible benefits for a large number of producers. So, I am asking all those who feel Free Range Dairy could make a real difference to the long term future of their farm businesses, put their hands up now. All that is really needed at this stage is a declaration of interest, there does not need to be any formal commitment to Free Range Dairy. If you haven’t done so already, I would be very grateful if you would sign up to our simple standards and make the Pasture Promise to demonstrate this.

You can either sign up to the Pasture Promise via the website or write to me at the following address:


Free Range Dairy

PO Box5092


BA11 9BF


Supporting Free Range Dairy and signing up to the Pasture Promise does not mean tearing up your contract with your current milk buyer. My aim is to create a demand for free range milk and to open the door for groups of producers to begin discussions with buyers around the UK.

All I really need is a simple commitment from you to help us grasp this opportunity. But, if you have time, please take a look at the Dairy Fund in more detail via the following link . If you would like to have some input into the Free Range Dairy application, please contact me as soon as possible (the deadline for outline submissions is 28th February 2013).



Although Free Range Dairy welcomes farmers from all around the UK, I am only able to apply for funding from the Dairy Fund for farmers in England. I would like to hear from any producers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who would like to put together an application for funding in these regions.


Thank you,

Neil Darwent



Phone:  07801 507101

Leave a Reply

Follow us and Other links