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Farmers cash in on Covid dairy drought with 24-hour vending machines

Business is booming for dairy farmers who are adapting to the Covid pandemic by bottling up their profits in vending machines. 

As supermarkets struggle to meet the demand for dairy, two family-run farms have taken to selling milk fresh from the cow in self-serve dispensing machines.  

Will Lambourne runs Townsend Farm in Marsh Gibbon, near Bicester in Oxford, with his father Adrian and brother Joel. 

Having noticed a shortage in supermarkets during the first lockdown, Mr Lambourne and his wife Abi came up with the idea to sell milk directly to consumers. 

They are now selling to hundreds of customers a week, with people travelling from neighbouring towns and villages to get their milk and flavoured shakes. 

The Lambournes sell pasturised milk from vending machines which are in operation seven days a week, from 7am until 7pm. Customers are able to take along their own bottles or purchase glass bottles from the farm. 

And anyone looking to sweeten up their purchase can turn it into milkshake with 12 flavours available – from gingerbread to candy floss. 

Meanwhile in Berthengam, near Holywell in Flintshire, Wales, queues form each day by farmer Einion Jones and his wife Elliw’s roadside machine. 

Will Lambourne and his wife Abi run Townsend Farm in Marsh Gibbon, near Bicester in Oxford. They are now selling hundreds of bottles of fresh milk a day from their vending machines 

At The Milk Churn, the Lambournes sell pasturised milk from vending machines which are in operation seven days a week, from 7am until 7pm. Customers are able to take along their own bottles or purchase glass bottles from the farm

At The Milk Churn, the Lambournes sell pasturised milk from vending machines which are in operation seven days a week, from 7am until 7pm. Customers are able to take along their own bottles or purchase glass bottles from the farm

Anyone looking to sweeten up their purchase can turn it into milkshake with 12 flavours available - from gingerbread to candy floss

Anyone looking to sweeten up their purchase can turn it into milkshake with 12 flavours available – from gingerbread to candy floss

Dairy farmers Elliw and Einion Jones with their children Elin (7), Gwenni (5), Magi (3) and 18 month old Penri

Dairy farmers Elliw and Einion Jones with their children Elin (7), Gwenni (5), Magi (3) and 18 month old Penri

Mr Lambourne told MailOnline: ‘We had the idea to sell milk during the first lockown. It seemed so obvious while there there was a shortage at supermarkets. 

‘There was an opportunity to help the community and serve directly to the consumer.  

‘There was also a desire for people to shop local, especially in such a rural area. 

‘As farmers we have to accept that we need to do more for the environment so we use glass bottles, with milk going straight from the farm to the customers’ fridge.

‘It has gone really well so far and we’ve also started doing milkshakes which has really taken off.’

The village, which is just outside Bicester, is some six miles from the nearest shop so business is booming for the Lambourne family. 

They sell fresh eggs alongside the milk and are looking to expand, with potential plans for a farmshop in the pipeline. 

Mr Lambourne added: ‘These are staple foods that everyone needs, and it also helps people avoid going into busy towns or supermarkets, where Covid is prevalent. 

‘We get a lot of comments about the quality of our milk, which is gently treated. And people are loving our milkshakes – with some customers coming back for several bottles at a time. 

‘We plan to expand because people are asking us to make bread and run a farm shop so we’re looking at whether it’s financially viable.’       

At Einion and Elliw Jones’ roadside machine, fresh dairy milk is sold in bottles, along with flavoured milk shakes and hot chocolate.

The machine, which is available 24 hours a day, is believed to be one of the first of its kind in North Wales, and the Joneses have been astounded by its success.

They have a 280-strong herd of Jersey-cross milking cows on their farm at Mynydd Mostyn, which is on the Mostyn Hall estate and most of the milk goes to South Caernarfon Creamery.

Einion Jones with the home produced milk they are now selling direct from the farm via a special dispensing machine

Einion Jones with the home produced milk they are now selling direct from the farm via a special dispensing machine

The roadside attraction is a machine where fresh dairy milk is sold in bottles, along with flavoured milk shakes and hot chocolate

The roadside attraction is a machine where fresh dairy milk is sold in bottles, along with flavoured milk shakes and hot chocolate

The machine, which is available 24 hours a day, is believed to be one of the first of its kind in North Wales, and although the Joneses had done some research before investing in it they have been astounded by its success

The milk now being sold direct from Mynydd Mostyn Dairy farm

The machine, which is available 24 hours a day, is believed to be one of the first of its kind in North Wales, and although the Joneses had done some research before investing in it they have been astounded by its success

‘We first considered having a machine about two years ago but did nothing about, and then in June last year we looked into it in more detail,’ said Elliw.

‘During the pandemic more people have been trying to buy local produce, and so we thought it would be a good time.

‘It’s been amazing. The coffee and hot chocolate machine has been here a while and people have got to hear about it through Facebook,’ she said. ‘On the day we started selling milk people were queuing from 10am until 9 o’clock at night.’

‘People really seem to appreciate it because it is so fresh, unlike some of the milk on sale in supermarkets,’ added Einion.

Full milk and semi-skinned is available and is supplied in glass bottles which are returnable. Payment is by card, so the facility does not have to be manned.

Residents of neighbouring villages including Berthengam, Trelogan, Sarn and Whitford walk along the country lanes or across fields to reach Mynydd Mostyn, while there is also a steady flow of traffic.

Wendy Williams on Gracie (left) and Laura Hafwen Jones on Ted having a hot chocolate at Mynydd Mostyn Dairy farm

Wendy Williams on Gracie (left) and Laura Hafwen Jones on Ted having a hot chocolate at Mynydd Mostyn Dairy farm

Sara Bevan and her daughter Charley, 15, from Flint, were among those queuing – and they considered it worth the wait.

‘I was brought up in Trelogan and I felt we should support a local business,’ said Sara.

‘It’s the best milkshake I’ve ever had,’ added Charley.

And friends Wendy Williams and Laura Hafwen Jones stopped by on their horses to enjoy cups of piping hot chocolate before continuing their ride.

Wendy said: ‘It’s gorgeous, and nice to have somewhere like this to pop into.’


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