Chestnutt family reveal their latest extension of their successful fresh milk business

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Chestnutt Farm is now only the second producer of yoghurt in Northern Ireland

A new Greek style yoghurt has been developed by the Chestnutt family as the latest extension of their successful fresh milk business from their dairy farm in Portrush.

The natural yoghurt, now on sale throughout the Glens and Causeway region, which has an established reputation as a hub of artisan food production and innovation, follows the installation of a novel vending equipment to sell fresh milk direct from the farm, which is run by husband and wife team William and Alison Chestnutt with William’s parents.

The yoghurt is also now available from the farm’s unique ‘Milk Hut’, the location of the innovative vending operation on the progressive farm. The ‘Milk Hut’ has also been extended recently by the couple to sell milk shakes and hot chocolate as well as other local produce such as free range eggs, coffee and rapeseed oils.

Chestnutt Farm is now only the second producer of yoghurt in Northern Ireland; the other being the award winning Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt at Bangor, Co Down, also a successful farm diversification project launched 15 years ago by the late Lady Dufferin and Ava.

The Chestnutt’s 107-year-old family farm runs 250 Holstein cows on 358 acres of pasture land, providing high quality milk for the company’s vending and yoghurt operations and also for processing by a local creamery.

“Our new yoghurt, which is sold in 450g pots, is the outcome of discussions around the kitchen table on ways to add further value to our milk and thereby help the ongoing development of the farm,” explains Alison, who has a background in the local food industry.

“Feedback from the delis and farm shops in the region and increasingly from further afield that we are beginning to supply with our Greek style yoghurt has been extremely encouraging.

“We decided on a Greek style yoghurt because this was the best way for us to proceed in the short-term. Our farm milk is fermented with a starter culture and strained using a muslin cloth. It’s completely natural and handcrafted by us on the farm.”

Greek yoghurt tends to require more milk than the traditional product. It’s also much thicker and tangier due largely to the straining process.

Research shows it is an excellent source of magnesium, vitamin B12 and iodine. In addition, Greek yoghurt is reported to have half the carbs and sugar of regular yogurt while packing almost twice as much protein. The yoghurt also has less calcium and sodium.

“Yoghurt was an obvious choice following the introduction of our fresh milk vending equipment. It was one of the first of its kind anywhere on the island of Ireland,” says William. “We decided to see how the vending machine went before looking at other added value developments such as a Greek style yoghurt. While some people suggested we should consider a farmhouse cheese, we opted for yoghurt. The success of the vending service encouraged us to push ahead with yoghurt.”

Milk vending, launched more than a year ago now, is proving to be successful and has shown the demand for this farm-based service among local people.

Locals and holiday makers from the caravan parks throughout the area were also interested in where their food comes from and who is producing it and were keen to support a producer from the area.

Alison continues: “Local people also appreciate the easy access to fresh milk from a local farm and the natural flavour that comes from a traditional glass bottle that’s also reusable, thereby helping to reduce plastic waste in the countryside.”

The enterprising couple carefully researched how best to set up yoghurt production – as they had done before introducing milk vending equipment. This had involved visits to the Netherlands and a number of farms in England that were already selling milk directly to the public.

Yoghurt innovators William and Alison Chestnutt from PortrushYoghurt innovators William and Alison Chestnutt from Portrush
Yoghurt innovators William and Alison Chestnutt from Portrush

“We were looking at ways to add value to our farm business and milk and reckoned this was a good way to do so,” she adds.

Investment in a pasteurisation room beside the milking parlour provided scope for further diversifications, especially the natural yoghurt they had begun exploring and researching from 2020. They began developing the yoghurt last July and launched it a number of local food fairs and were ‘blown away’ by the wholly positive feedback from shoppers.

Other interesting products from the farm’s supply of quality milk are in the pipeline – once the natural yoghurt business has been firmly established.