BSc (Hons) Agriculture graduate Shannon Porter had the idea to start selling her dairy herd’s milk out of vending machines years ago, but it was not until The Republic of Ireland’s lockdown and some encouragement from friends and family that ‘The Milk Bar’ really got moo-ving.
“My family and I talked about it for years, probably since I went over to Harper Adams, but I’ve never been home enough to look after it and when Ireland went into lockdown and teaching went online, a good friend of mine said ‘for goodness sake go and do it’!”
Dairy farming is in Shannon’s blood, as both sides of her family were dairy farmers and Shannon currently helps out on her family’s 800-acre mixed dairy, beef and sheep farm.
“I started The Milk Bar at the end of February 2021, and I’ve honestly been overwhelmed I didn’t expect it to take off so well, initially my aim was to sell 100 litres a week, but most weekends we sell out and that’s more than 400 litres and every day we sell about 200 litres.
“I thought everyone would be nosy at first, out for a Sunday drive and come and see it, but I cannot get over the number of people who come back for refills and their glowing reviews of our milk.”
Asked why she thought The Milk Bar was so popular, the Donegal native said, “We sell a premium product and people love it and the growing importance of sustainability and being environmentally friendly has played a big part in it.
"...The glass bottles make a difference too. Milk from glass bottles tastes better. The milk keeps better in them and a lot of people don’t like the taste of milk from plastic bottles.”
As well as lots of media coverage, the former HAU Women’s Hockey chairwoman has been approached multiple times by businesses wanting to stock her milk but Shannon wants to focus solely on her business first.
“I’m trying to get my feet off the ground first and get some money in – but I might start producing yoghurt and ice cream. I’ve had requests for semi-skimmed milk, too, but need extra parts for my pasteurisers before I can do that.”
“I’d also like to maybe add an educational element to ‘The Milk Bar’, get children from local schools in and show them around the farm and the different stages of the milk production process.”
Shannon now works as a sales agent for a livestock feed supplier but has really fond memories of her time at Harper Adams.
“I loved it, I had a fabulous time and made great friends. I had heard great reviews about Harper Adams from people who had been there and knew about the university from their visits to local shows. I went to the Harper Adams Experience residential event twice and both times thought ‘this is where I am going, this is where I want to be'.
“It was scary leaving home but Harper felt like a home from home and in the end, I never wanted to leave.”