Wanting to show children where milk comes from was the inspiration behind dairy farmer and entrepreneur Gemma Smale-Rowland, Director of Cornish Moo.
Eight months on from launching Cornish Moo, Gemma says the most rewarding aspect of running the business is welcoming children who have cycled down to the farm after school to buy milk.
Gemma is a fourth generation farmer, who grew up helping out on the family’s dairy farm in North Petherwin in North Cornwall. She says she had “incredible role models growing up,” including her grandfather, who was President of Holstein UK and her father, who is currently Chairman of Holstein UK. Gemma is club leader of Launceston Young Farmers and is the only woman to sit on the Dairy Board of the NFU.
After fulfilling a childhood dream of having her own dairy herd, Gemma now sells whole milk from a vending machine by the farm gate. Open from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week, the machine dispenses milk into litre or half litre glass bottles, which the customers can then return.
The milk, which Gemma describes as “milk as it used to be”, is pasteurised more slowly and at a lower temperature than supermarket milk and, because it is non-homogenised, the cream rises to the top.
Gemma launched Cornish Moo in February 2019 and the business has already won a number of awards, including being crowned Champion Dairy Product, Best Branding and Reserve Supreme Champion by Taste of the West. Gemma was also recently named runner up in the Dairy Industry Woman of the Year awards.
Gemma says: “The purpose of Cornish Moo was to reconnect people with where their food comes from and get an understanding of what local, good produce should taste like. Customers come to the farm, see the cows and then buy the milk. If you come to us in the morning, it’s just three hours from the cow to you, the customer.
“The UK has the highest welfare standards in the whole world and we produce the best food we possibly can. Buying cheap food has become the norm, but we really need to think about the environmental impact of buying food from abroad.”
Gemma says that one of the secrets to the quality of the product is that her cows are grass fed and graze in the fields for a minimum of six months of the year. “It’s really important to me that the cows graze,” says Gemma. “It’s the most natural thing in the world. We have amazing grass here in Cornwall, so why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?
Every batch of Cornish Moo milk is different, depending on what the cows are eating. Even our customers notice when the cows have moved to a different field because the taste changes. It’s very different from the milk you buy in the supermarket. It takes us back to what dairy products used to be like.”
Despite her background in farming and a career in sales, Gemma says that launching Cornish Moo has been a challenge. “Moving into retail is very different from anything I’ve done before,” she explains. “The regulations around the food industry are so stringent. It’s not just a case of being able to sell your milk from the farm gate.”
Amy said: “Many of our farm Members run diversification businesses, but Cornish Moo is something different. It has been absolutely amazing to see the success that Gemma has achieved in such a short space of time. It’s also great to see how much support she has had locally. I live just a few miles away and know many people who are loyal Cornish Moo customers.
“I look forward to supporting Gemma as she develops the business and it will be interesting to see how it grows over the coming months and years. The future for Cornish Moo looks very exciting indeed.”
As she works on future plans for Cornish Moo, Gemma acknowledges that support from the community will continue to be the key to the success of the business.
“The local support has been incredible,” she says. “People from the village come down every other day to get their milk and a number of our customers come over from Launceston. One even told me she travels 45 minutes each way to buy our milk.”
It is local children, the original inspiration behind the enterprise, who are perhaps Cornish Moo’s biggest supporters.
“Selling milk in this way is definitely not an easy option and there are days when I wonder why I do this,” she says. “But the reward comes at 3.30pm, when the kids get out of school and they all come down on their bikes to get their half litre of milk, and drink it before they’ve left. That shows that I’ve produced something good.
“The drive to keep going comes from seeing children enjoying dairy products again.”