Striving for a positive rural future in Sheffield

When Hector Andrew started his diary farm in Dungworth on the edge of Sheffield in 1947, he did so with just 10 cows for milk production, delivering to shops and homes.

Thursday, 2nd February 2017, 7:00 am
Ed Andrew from Our Cow Molly

Now the farm - under the Our Cow Molly brand - has expanded to an 84-strong herd, overseen by Hector’s grandson Eddie, aged 37, who is upfront in admitting that his rural business has had to diversify to survive for 70 years.

Selling ‘super fresh milk’ bottled on site, and sending tubs of ice cream to retailers across the city, are some of the initiatives Our Cow Molly has led in its efforts to adapt to a difficult climate for dairy farmers.

But the Dungworth farm’s successes put it in a minority, according to a report out this week.

The paper by the Natwest bank, called Harvesting the Future for Young Farmers, said Eddie’s generation was facing ‘serious, unnecessary challenges’.

The number of young people entering the farming sector is falling, and those already in the business face problems growing and diversifying their farms, said the report, which called for a new cabinet committee to be set up within national Government, supported by a taskforce to tap into the sector’s economic potential in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Eddie - ‘young in farming industry terms’, he said - explained there was ‘little confidence’ in his peers to carry on dairy farming.

“The fact is that few, if any, dairy farmers are actually covering their costs. Young farmers need to see something that works, and the fact that most dairies are currently loss-making is very uninspiring.”

Our Cow Molly supplies 100 independent firms, and its customers range from families to large organisations such as the Co-op and Sheffield University.

“We have forged a new way of working and we believe this type of relationship can be developed between other dairies and local businesses and institutions, enabling customers to have access to much fresher milk direct from the farm, which is an asset to the community,” said Eddie.

“Our rural business massively benefits Sheffield businesses. A positive future for the rural economy is positive for the urban and city economy too.”

The report was based on a study of 500 ‘young and entrant’ farmers.