James and Chloe Davidson are farming their land organically and have planted mixed varieties of herbs, legumes and pasture for their cattle

Darfield’s boutique Milk

by Ann van Engelen

James and Chloe Davidson are bringing the clink of glass milk bottles back to Canterbury through their boutique milk business.

“There is something nostalgic about having fresh milk delivered to your door from the farm. We leased 24 hectares of land and established Roan Farm to produce A2 milk to sell door-to-door,” said Chloe.

Animal welfare, the environment, sustainability and the consumer are a key focus for the farm to fridge business.

“The conventional dairy industry has some image problems, and we want to lead by example and show what is achievable. Our cows are grass-fed, and we plan to leave the calves with their mothers while they are being milked instead of being separated. Our A2 milk will be delivered in reusable glass bottles.”

James is a former FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist.

“It can be disheartening when you work long hours, and your milk gets collected by the milk tanker, and you never see it again.

“I want to interact with the people who buy and drink our milk and share the story of where it comes from,” said James.

“We are farming our land organically and are in the conversion stage, which is a three-year process until we are fully organically certified. We have been replacing a lot of dryland cocksfoot pastures with 20-odd species of herbs, pasture and legumes.”

James and Chloe spotted mobile milking equipment for sale on Trade Me last year.

“We knew that if we didn’t take a gamble and buy the equipment, then, we probably never would. It is a milking shed on a trailer, which provides huge flexibility. We move it every day so our cows, which are 100 per cent grass-fed, walk up onto the trailer and are milked in the paddock. It suits the ‘calf at foot system’ as the calves wait nearby until the cows are milked.” Roan Farm is milking 22 cows, including a number of milking shorthorns, with plans to expand. Once the milk is harvested, it is pasteurised and bottled.

“Pasteurised milk has a longer shelf life, so there is less wastage, and it means we can sell it in cafes and supermarkets.

“Initially, the milk will be delivered to Darfield, West Melton and Christchurch. Routes will increase with demand. A local cafe has come on board to sell the milk, as have a couple of small grocers. Our aim was to ramp up slowly, but since we began last week, we have found the demand has gone crazy. We sold the first batch within hours. At the moment we are trying to meet stockist demands so door to door deliveries are being delayed and we had to purchase more cows.

“We are loving getting positive feedback on our Facebook page. It has been a long time coming, with James using the wall of our shower as his brainstorming whiteboard. We went through a few pads of waterproof paper and are now in the planning stages to having our own processing room. From day one, our goal has been to be completely transparent. Our children are young, Margot is 11 months and Angus is almost three years old. We appreciate the patience and understanding we are getting from people because we didn’t foresee this kind of demand. We have gone from nothing to producing 700 litres in a few days. Our intentions are to support other small businesses, that is why we have kept with smaller stores and cafes.

“Our goal is to keep everything local where possible as we focus on ensuring that the land we farm off is regeneratively farmed and free of chemicals and pesticides. It is a simple journey, and we intend to keep it that way.”