How a milk vending machine saved a Welsh dairy farm

Illustration for article titled How a milk vending machine saved a Welsh dairy farm
Photo: picture alliance / Contributor (Getty Images)

Llaeth Beynon Dairy has been run by the same family in Carmarthenshire in the southwestern region of Wales for the past three generations. But the pandemic nearly destroyed the business. The Telegraph reports how one small change saved an entire farm, and it’s an uplifting read.

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“The industry just collapsed overnight,” said Ifan Beynon-Thomas, who runs Goitre Fach farm along with his parents. The family’s herd of 250 cows produce milk meant for coffee shops, airplanes, and trains, meaning that when the first lockdown was imposed, all of their business disappeared into thin air. “We didn’t get paid for our milk for three months.” Twice, he recalls, “we had to tip milk down the drain,” 7,000 liters at a time.

“You do all the hard work, feeding the cows, keeping them healthy and everything else. Then you just tip the product down the drain and have nothing for it,” he said.

After a while they had to do something, so they bet on an idea inspired by a milk vending machine Beynon-Thomas had seen at another dairy farm in England where customers filled their own bottles.

Along with the vending machine, the Beynon-Thomases would also need a new pasteurization machine and other equipment, and it wasn’t going to come cheap: The family would need a bank loan. But they went ahead and did it, and last October, when Wales was put under a 17-day lockdown, they started selling milk from the vending machine.

The machine became extremely popular, operating 24 hours a day. People line up as early as 6:30 a.m. and come as late as 2:30 a.m. But there’s a sense of community around the busy line. “When they’re queuing,” Beynon-Thomas said, “they’re outdoors, and they stay two metres apart, but they can still talk to someone and they feel like they’re involved in something.”

Once everything reopened, Beynon-Thomas thought business would dwindle. But instead it stayed steady, and the family has now added a milkshake machine. “It’s going really well,” Beynon-Thomas told The Telegraph. Plans for more machines are in the works, but he’s making sure to be mindful of the environment. “We’re trying to expand, but we want to keep the ethos of local, fresh, low carbon-footprint milk.” Best of all, other farms are starting to follow suit.

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If you need a reason to feel hopeful today, do yourself a favor and check this story out. I really liked reading about the community’s reaction to the vending machine, because it’s a reminder that people can bond together over something delicious. And, dammit, now I want a milkshake.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

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I’m glad they made it work out, but I don’t really understand why they threw away milk when they could have donated it to the needy and written that off. Maybe it was some local regulation and requirement.