Pemberton’s Dairies - a traditional raw milk produce in Lytham

Andrew and Ailsa Pemberton and son, Tom, outside their new Farm Shop

Andrew and Ailsa Pemberton and son, Tom, outside their new Farm Shop - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

Raw milk may be en vogue these days. But Lytham’s oldest farming family have been producing raw milk for more than a century. Emma Mayoh reports.

Raw milk dispenser

Raw milk dispenser - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

The popularity of raw milk is on the rise. Listen to any foodies chewing over the latest culinary fads and no doubt someone would be extolling its virtues. And they wouldn’t be wrong. But one of Lytham’s oldest farming families, Pemberton’s Dairies at Birks Farm, is well ahead of the trend. This long established family business has been supplying raw milk to the local Fylde community for more decades.

If you take a drink of raw milk, it’s unlikely you’d recognise it as that stuff you enjoyed as a child. The milk – dubbed raw because it hasn’t been heated and homogenised – is richer, creamier and has a much more distinctive taste. More and more people are craving that buttery, silky hit that comes from raw milk, which is in fact more yellow in colour than white.

‘Raw milk is so good for you,’ said owner, Andrew Pemberton. ‘It went out of fashion with worries of ecoli and unwanted bacteria so we did pasteurised milk for a while. But raw milk is all we used to do 40 years ago. It’s untreated and it comes straight from the cow, a natural source direct from these girls. That’s why we wanted to do it again.

‘Farming has changed and more emphasis has been placed on volume and less on butterfat percentage meaning there are less Jersey and traditional dairy breeds being milked. We still maintain a lot of Ayrshire cattle – and have Highland cattle for beef – which give a good balance of production and quality. The cows are grass fed, which is important to get that great flavour. But one or two of them are partial to Rowntree’s sweets and some relish Rice Krispies. They’re allowed a treat once in a while.

Two weeks old Highland calf 'Mini'

Two weeks old Highland calf 'Mini' - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

‘The milk is really good for muscle repair too. It’s a great drink to have when you’ve been exercising. People are surprised to hear that but you can’t beat it.’

The family firm was first established by Thomas Pemberton who started out in cattle buying, after growing up on more than 100 acres of farming land in Wharles. That led to opening a butchers shop in Clifton Street in Lytham which was then taken on by his son, John. Although the butchers is no longer there, farming has remained in the family since. But little would Thomas have known that he was at the start of a successful farming business that now spans six generations.

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‘Apparently Thomas used to say that he would be a success if he managed to keep six cows,’ said Andrew. ‘When he came to turn the business over he had 60. That was quite some going. We have more than 250 now.

‘His son John took the business on and he farmed at Home Farm at Lytham Hall before the Pemberton’s took on the tenancy here at Birks Farm. The meat used to be delivered by butcher’s bike and the milk was delivered by horse and cart in the morning and afternoon. It was supplied in large churns and ladled out to customers into their own jugs and containers.’

While things may have changed at this Lytham dairy – today there is no need for a horse and cart to deliver the milk – the passion, commitment and keenness for quality from Andrew, wife Ailsa and his children, including son Thomas who has taken a very large role on the farm, has never waned.

‘We love what we do,’ Andrew said. ‘I’ve been on this farm every day for 60 years, there’s never been a day I’ve been off it.

‘I’m proud to be a part of something that has played such a large role in my family history. I love what I do and it’s great for all of us to work together to do it.’

Thomas is keen to take on the business as well as drive it into the future. Having studied at the Royal Agricultural College for two years, the young farmer is happiest spending his days in the milk parlour.

‘I love being in the parlour and around the farm first thing in the morning, when no one else is around,’ said Thomas. ‘It’s so quiet and it’s a nice time of day for me.

‘Raw milk is something that our family always sold. I’m really proud to be a part of continuing that tradition.’

The new Pembertons Farm Shop, which has been open a few months, is the latest venture for the family lead by Andrew’s brother in law, Duncan Waller. The shop sells meat reared in the fields behind the shop on the farm, their raw milk which customers can get from a specialist self serve machine – and pay for in the honesty box – and a bounty of other produce from other Lancashire farms and food producers. It’s a project that has been well supported by the local community.

‘We’ve offered a delivery service for the last 50 years by milk van and before that, horse and cart, even butcher’s bike,’ said Andrew. ‘It’s kept us ahead of the game. The shop is a part of that.

‘We are optimistic that the Pemberton family will continue to produce and sell their milk to the many households on the Fylde coast for future generations. We have long been closely involved with Lytham life and we don’t want that to change.’

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