Lune Valley family farm saved by ‘hipster coffee drinkers’

Joe Towers, April Towers, Kim Howard, Edward Towers and John Towers on the family farm.
Joe Towers, April Towers, Kim Howard, Edward Towers and John Towers on the family farm.

A Lune Valley farming family has scooped a top award for innovation after becoming the first in the UK to team up with London’s hipster baristas.

Joe and Ed Towers, who run Lune Valley Dairy at Brades Farm, Farleton, were praised by national farming judges for seizing the opportunity to take their business forward in a unique new direction.

The pair have joined forces with baristas in London to provide specialist milk for their coffee drinkers.

This came after the family was forced to rethink their market supply in the face of the repercussions of supermarket wars and spot prices crashing.

Working with a Copenhagen-based scientist/coffee consultant, Joe and Ed developed the UK’s first barista milk, specially designed for pouring into coffee.

Research revealed there was a demand for a high protein milk to produce the perfect ‘microfoam’ for coffee.

Overhauling the farm’s whole dairy breed and system, Jersey heifers were bought from Denmark in November 2015 and steadily grown to meet demand.

The specification for the London milk is 3.6 per cent protein, for which the farm’s black and white cows produce 3.3 per cent and the Jerseys 3.9 per cent.

In order to consistently achieve the required 3.6 per cent, a button in the parlour diverts the milk into the Jersey tank when they go through the parlour.

Milk samples are then sent to National Milk Laboratories and when the milk tanker comes, Joe instructs how much black and white milk and how much Jersey milk to pick up so the blend is 3.6 per cent.

Ed has redeveloped the farm’s infrastructure to meet consumer demands for milk consistency and animal welfare.

A collaboration with a London distributor in March led to the launch of the farm’s own brand, Brades Farm Barista Milk, and today 450 cows are managed, 110 of which are Jersey.

A third of the milk goes into London coffee shops, as well as high end restaurants and hotels, under the brand Brades Farm Barista Milk – although this will be rising to half their production in the near future.

Looking to the future, new locations were explored outside of London to supply different areas of the country, with Joe and Ed keen to enhance the farm’s reputation, which will hopefully lead to increased sales and brand awareness.

This begins next month with a collaboration with Stockport-based distributors Hopewell Farm, which will provide the farm’s milk to Manchester and the surrounding area – the first time the business has moved outside of London.

Brades Farm also continues to operate as a traditional milk distributor for the Lancaster area, which the family has done since the 1970s.

Joe said: “Barista milk is a new concept. We were the first in the UK to develop a milk and target it at baristas.

“Demand in London very much exceeded our expectations.

“We have been hoping to launch outside London for a while but it’s a very different market.”

Joe and Ed won the 2017 British Farming Awards for Dairy Innovator of the Year after being nominated by the Farmers Guardian.

They were also placed in the final five for Family Farming Business of the Year.

The event showcases the innovation and achievements of farmers across the agricultural industry.

Judges said Joe and Edward were quick to seize the opportunities that presented themselves in the barista coffee market, and are clearly focused on driving their existing and new markets forward.

On winning the award, Joe and Ed said: “It’s about being recognised for the hard work we put in. This award means so much for our team back home.

“Dairy farming is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world and we try our best to look after our animals and provide what our customers want.

“It’s a battle every day so to be appreciated and truly welcomed here tonight means everything.”