SOME may have noticed strange goings-on around JoJo’s Dairy of late.

The flash of headlights, cars pulling up in the dead of night, their slippered drivers furtively tiptoeing towards the lowing herd before vanishing into a nearby shed.

And then there is the noise; the tell-tale clink of coins, and a peculiar electric hum. One by one, they emerge, arms loaded with a hefty cargo.

But never fear, Wanborough has not become a hunting ground for bumbling rustlers. These midnight visitors are only out to take advantage of JoJo’s Dairy’s latest invention, the 24-hour milk vending machine.

“I think that’s what makes it work. People can come anytime they want – if they’ve run out of milk in the evening, we’re their corner shop,” says farm owner Josette Feddes. “Some people come at night, even in their pyjamas. Most shops are open late and many people do their shopping online so we had to be able to compete with that, be convenient. So we never close.”

“It’s real life, they can see the cows, where it comes from – that’s what we try to show people,” she adds motioning to the barn where a cow is busy lapping the amniotic fluid off a newborn calf. “It was born two hours ago,” the 36-year-old informs me. “We try to keep it as natural as we can. We don’t interfere so we don’t introduce any bacteria to the cows.”

The dairy, which is based at Lotmead but completely separate from the Pick Your Own farm, produces 5,000 litres of whole milk a day. The bulk of the daily yield is then sent to Freshways, a processing plant in London. About 100 litres are saved each week, bottled within two hours of milking by Josette and loaded into the vending machine – ensconced in a snug little outbuilding, no bigger than a garden shed – to be sold directly to the public. It stocks bottles of 500ml, 1L and 2L, sold at 50p, £1 and £2 respectively.

“Most milks in supermarkets are seven to ten days old before they’re even on the shelf which is not right,” says Josette, originally from the Netherlands. “How can you call that fresh milk?”

Short of hunkering down in the straw and drawing milk from the teats of cattle themselves, this is the closest to “straight out of the cow” freshness customers will get. Not that the idea of letting them have a go has not crossed her mind – in her book, hands-on experience is the only way to give the public a true picture of farming – but the insurance man simply would not allow it. Born and raised on a dairy farm, she has strong views about the industry and the need to engage the public in the food they consume each day – or the pale imitation that has been substituted for the real thing over the decades in leading chains.

For many years she plodded on along with partner Jonathan Joseph, weathering the relentless squeeze of small producers, at the mercy of superstores. But when milk prices continued to plummet last year she put her food down, sat Jonathan down and pitched him her vending machine concept. “I was more keen on it than him,” she chuckles. “He thought we had enough work which is true. But I’m passionate about this. I wanted to build a life for us, have a future in dairy. We had to be more independent. I think in the end he just felt, ‘Let her do it, as long as she leaves me alone,” she smiles. “I’m a bit more adventurous, he is more reasonable.”

The pair met in Normandy more than a decade ago. Jonathan, originally from Wanborough, was running his own dairy – which he still owns, but has since converted to cereal farming – while Josette lent her milking services in a neighbouring farm. Eventually she joined his concern and when the dairy at Lotmead came up, they took a chance. By 2009, they had taken the helm. The herd has since steadily grown from 180 to 250 cows, with a mix of Holstein Friesians, Jersey Crosses and Swedish Reds.

“I’ve always loved it and I don’t mind working so hard as long as you get a fair price for your milk. That’s what’s really bringing you down. So many farmers at the moment have to stop because of the price. You can’t compete with supermarkets. It was about finding a way to get a fair price for a fresher product.”

While the driving force behind the venture is to help sustain the business, the vending machine has proved a nifty way to educate the community about dairy production and dispel some of the most stubborn myths around cow’s milk.

Chiefly, that milk is difficult to digest. This, she insists, is only true of homogenised milk, a commercial process the farm does not buy into.

Homogenisation involves running milk through a ‘wash machine’ to break fat molecules down to such a small size that they remain suspended evenly throughout instead of rising to the top. Preventing cream from floating to the surface leads to a longer shelf life. It also makes it easier to filtrate out the fat and produce skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

“To have the fat laying on top like ours is more natural,” she insists. If you don’t do anything to it your body is able to digest it better. And it’s healthier.”

Keen to produce the best possible milk for customers’ fragile tums, Josette is in the process of selecting new cows bred to produce exclusively A2 milk. This particular variety, as its name suggests, contains only the A2 protein rather than the A1, which is commonly found in regular milk. It is widely seen as healthier and the easiest type to digest.

“At the moment some of our cows give us A2 milk but it’s not 100 per cent because all the cows’ milk is blended. It will take us a couple of years to get it to be purely A2.”

When it comes to taste, Josette is intractable. Her herd is on a “special grass-heavy diet” to enhance the flavour of the milk and give it a naturally sweet tang.

“For us they’re like athletes,” she booms. “We have to make sure they’re on the correct diet so they can perform. Grass gives the milk a sweeter flavour which is nicer to drink and it’s also much better for the cows.

“And that’s where the vending machine comes in too. If we can get a fairer price for the milk, we can afford to look after them cows well. We want them to be happy and healthy and we can’t cut corners.”

Many, especially children, have commented on the milk’s delicate honey hints, since the launch of the machine in September.

“On child asked if we had put honey in the milk,” she recalls excitedly. “Even adults are amazed. Everybody who tastes it says it brings back memories of when they were a child, which is nice. One person said to me, ‘This is what milk used to taste like.”

Looking forward, Josette is planning to sell her cartons to village and farm shops and slowly but surely reacquaint the public with good old-fashioned milk.

“That’s the plan,” she enthuses. “To bring back real milk.”

Jojo’s Dairy is based at Lotmead Farm, Lotmead Business Village, Wanborough, Swindon SN4 0UY.

To find out more go to the JoJosdairyfarm Facebook page.