Geraldine Starke is the woman behind Refarm’d – a project which helps dairy farmers switch from producing dairy milk to oat milk and to become animal sanctuaries in the process.
Geraldine is originally from France and currently living in Spain. Her first Refarm’d project is in the UK, and while the focus of the project is worldwide, most of the interest is coming from the UK, with 700 people currently signed up as potential customers for the plant-based milk. The first project is to begin in Derbyshire, and Geraldine is currently in advanced talks with 4 other farms.
Farms are the perfect animal sanctuary, and plant-based milk production is an easy process that requires only simple ingredients and no big equipment or intensive training. Farmers already have the land, the animals and the people that can care for them. Because they no longer use the animals for profit there is also a significant reduction in costs. For example:
- Lower veterinary costs (no inseminations, difficult calvings, etc.)
- Lower costs for animal feed as there is a return to hay and grass.
- No purchases of cereals and other food, as there is no longer the need to fatten the animals.
- Lower electrical costs as certain large equipment necessary in animal farming or milk production will no longer be used.
- No more transport costs to bring animals to the slaughterhouse.
There are many reasons why farmers might want to divest from animal farming, not the least of which is the low income they currently receive. Even when you include CAP payments, many farmers are operating at a loss and their income levels are often in the poverty bracket. This is why so many of them need an off-farm income as well.
How does it work:
- Once Refarm’d has identified a farmer who wants to sign up with the program they then set about gathering customers in the local area, which is any location within a 250km radius.
- Customers can choose between a regular home delivery in returnable glass bottles or visiting the farm to collect their order.
- Customers will be able to choose to pay on a monthly or yearly basis to reduce costs. Subscriptions can be cancelled at any time without costs to the customer.
- Customers may include businesses such as restaurants and cafes who order large quantities.
- The minimum pre-orders set for the farm is to have enough subscriptions to cover 80 litres per week. Pre-orders serve as a trial test for the customers and the farm and is aimed at leading to more subscriptions.
- Deliveries will be done by a local delivery company using electric or natural gas vehicles.
Refarm’d provides the following for the farmer:
- A starter kit, with a 3 months trial period contract, to ensure quick and easy transition that doesn’t involve risks for the farmer.
- Equipment for plant-based milk production includes a commercial blender, cold and dry storage, reusable glass bottles with washing machine, osmosis water filtering system and other needed tools.
- Contracts with local providers for ingredients, pick-up and delivery services, cleaning services and other needed providers.
- Training for plant-based milk production and food hygiene standards.
- Ingredients needed for production of the first 250 litres of plant-based milk.
- Ongoing support to the farmer during transition and after. Refarm’d has an online platform that will allow farmers to showcase their products and their farm. This platform will allow customers to find local farms and choose from the different subscriptions to ensure long term orders to the farmer.
The Farmer needs to do the following:
- Allocate a room /space for plant-based milk preparation. This space will be professionally cleaned and disinfected by Refarm’d partners to be used for production. This space needs to have access to electricity and water and space for equipment.
- Dedicate time to make at least 2 fresh batches of plant-based milk per week for its customers to be able to meet the demand for bi-weekly delivery of fresh milk.
- Take the best care possible of all the animals and follow the advice of Refarm’d experts and veterinarians, if needed, for the animals’ best interests.
Milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter and cream
Ingredients for plant-based milk production include oats, hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, walnuts, soya and hemp. Refarm’d recommends starting with oat milk production. Other types of milks can be added later on. Ingredients must come from a local and organic farm.
The intention is to grow the number of customers over time and also to diversify by producing plant-based alternatives like butter, cheese or cream that can be sold for higher prices.
First project in the UK
The initial farm is owned by an ex-dairy farmer in Derbyshire who has already become a sanctuary. This is a great opportunity for Refarm’d to test the business model, says Geraldine. Of the other farms in discussion, two are in the UK, one is in France and one in the US.
We wish everyone involved the best of luck and we look forward to seeing the project become a major success.