Ten questions with Brinkworth Dairy

March 1, 2014

Ten questions with Ceri Cryer, Brinkworth Dairy


What's the history of the farm?
William Collingborn, my great grandfather came to Hill End Farm in 1910 and established the Brinkworth Pedigree Friesian herd. This is a closed herd which means that we don’t buy in animals we breed them on the farm. This is a good biosecurity measure. William passed the farm onto John and then John onto Joe. Currently Joe and his wife Ro Collingborn (my mum and dad) own the farm. I am the farmer’s daughter. Chad is my husband. We have 2 sons, Bede (5) and Abel (3).

What's your background, where did you gain your farming experience?
Having decided that teaching was not the career for us, Chad began beekeeping and I started the cheese making business.

How did you sell before farmers markets and what difference did they make to your lives?
Chad and I started the cheese making business in 2006. The original intention was to sell through shops and wholesalers mainly. Our first farmers market was in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire and we were thrilled to sell out. We found that farmers markets offered us direct access to the consumer without middlemen. It enabled us to communicate directly about the high welfare standards of our farm and why our cheese is so great. Currently farmers markets are about 80% of our business. It is hard work to commit every weekend to standing at a market stall but we enjoy them otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

What's the farm philosophy?
Our farm philosophy is to maintain the traditional Wiltshire farmland and to maintain our Pedigree Friesian herd. The farm is a traditional small family farm with great respect for the environment, maintenance of hedges and tree planting. The herd has been here, being milked twice a day, every day for over 100 years and we are very proud of that. The cows have been bred for good feet and legs and longevity. We have even had the daughter, mother, grandmother and great grandmother in the herd at the same time. Dad’s special focus is clean milk and we frequently win awards for low cell count (low bacteria).

What part does each member of the family play?
Ro (mum) does the bookwork although I am learning this in preparation for the transition to the next generation. Dad is in charge he does some morning milkings. Steve does the tractor work. Chad does some milking and maintenance and is the barista at the markets. Alex is our apprentice and she does afternoon milking. I run the cheese making business and make ice-cream. Stephen and Lewis make the cheese, yogurt, cream and milk and sell at markets.

Tell us about your method of production, what’s unique about it.
Everything is really handmade. In the cheese making, we don’t even use any mechanical stirrers or cutters. This means the curd is handled really gently and means that the cheese is really creamy. It means we only produce small volumes (60kg) at a time. Even the milk is bottled by hand just using a small tap. Milk is better when it hasn’t been knocked around so much. The ice-cream is made in 3 litre batches at a time which makes it easy to do bespoke flavours. The yogurt is made in a unique way – again with little handling and our customers love it!

Favourite product and why?
Our cream is incredible. It is sooooo thick – most of the time! It’s not double but quadruple cream. It is a spooning cream without needing to be whipped. I eat it with jam on fruit loaf, on pancakes, on ice-cream, with chocolate spread, make chocolate mousse and on its own of course!
For Chad it’s the yogurt. He made the yogurt incubator when everyone told him he was wasting his time. So every time he sells a pot of yogurt he has a warm feeling of success.
What does the future hold for the farm/ business re farmers markets?
Farmers markets do rely on having people to be there to do them. I think it is best for the person doing the selling to be involved in the production… otherwise you may just as well buy from someone who has just bought the produce and is selling it on. This does mean that there is a limit to how many you can do. We are at St Nicholas Bristol and Brinkworth every Wednesday, Stroud and West Hampstead on Saturday, Queens Park, Marylebone, and Duck Pond on Sunday. We still want to do more markets because they are a great way to get our produce out there….we just need more people.

What's happening on the farm right now?
Right now on the farm, spring is coming. Our farm is heavy clay which means that in the depths of winter, the cows can’t be on the fields, instead they are outside and in the barns but we are looking forwards to getting them back out in the field. We are using the plate meter to measure how well the grass is growing. We are spreading dung on the fields at the moment. Quite a lot of cows are calving. The milking of course goes on twice a day. We have planted a new 100 tree orchard.

Sum up your farm/business for us in 3 words
Traditional Wiltshire Farming