Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurised. Demand is soaringby Wendell Steavenson / February 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Fiona Provan is 52 years old. It’s taken her a long time to get where she wanted to be. “I’m a bit different!” she laughed. Provan grew up in Hertfordshire, the daughter of a vet. “Very James Herriot.” A pastoral childhood, but not bucolic. Her father was “a very bad tempered Scotsman, a scary man.” At school she was naughty and got locked in the closet. Depression first hit when she was a teenager. What to do with a girl with a large purple birthmark and no O levels? She told the careers officer she liked animals and was concerned about the environment. She ended up at the Cordon Bleu cooking school and took on a few restaurant jobs. She married young, to “my best friend really.” They moved to a Suffolk smallholding. Three kids. Several years. “Then I had my head turned.”
Divorce, bad relationships. “A terrible terrible time.” Provan scrabbled, moved from one rented cottage to another, on housing benefit, volunteering, doing odd jobs. “Always a bit out there, the eco warrior.” Campaigning against animal testing, the destruction of the rainforest, industrial agriculture that had destroyed the countryside. “Frustrated, tired of banging my head against a wall… I can’t do a meaningless job. I have to have a reason, a purpose.”
With a few thousand pounds left over from the divorce she bought a food van and sold burritos and fajitas at farmers’ markets and festivals. A friend lent her a few Red Poll cows, an old East Anglian breed. She had Bonnie, her “house cow” that she kept for milk. The food van was popular, the cows lifted her spirits. She created a Suffolk picnic pasty, “people went bonkers for it!” She sold homemade milkshakes.
“One day in 2009 a light bulb switched on. I was walking back from milking Bonnie. I had a bucket of milk in my hand, my boxer dog at my heels… I thought: maybe I can make money out of a few cows. Oh My God. Micro Dairy. I think it was the first time this term was ever uttered. Tears came into my eyes. I thought: I can’t believe it! I’ve got it!”
I met Fiona on New Year’s Eve. Clear Suffolk skies, frosty winter fields. We waved off the horses and hounds of the Somerleyton Hunt and went for a walk.…