This article first appeared in our Women: time for action issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 02 July 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
According to Yeo Valley Organic, there’s a secret to great-tasting dairy: it’s all about putting nature first.
One of Britain’s largest organic brands, Yeo Valley Organic is owned by the Mead family, which can trace its agricultural roots in Somerset back to the 15th century.
‘We farm organically because that’s how to get the best-tasting ingredients’, explains Yeo Valley Organic owner Tim Mead. ‘This inspires all the products and recipes we create. It’s great taste the right way.’
The Meads put a strong focus on working in harmony with the environment, and Tim says that everyone at Yeo Valley is deeply invested in tackling climate change. ‘We need to consider the environment above anything else and agriculture has the answer if it’s done properly’, he says.
‘As farmers we’re standing on something that can store carbon: the soil’, Tim continues. ‘Surely our first port of call is to do everything we possibly can to lock up carbon in the very thing that we are harnessing to provide food. As a livestock farmer, I feel really excited about being part of the solution.’
The desire to work with nature also applies to Yeo Valley Organic’s energy use; the roof of the cow shed, which sprawls across an acre of land, is covered with solar panels.
An additional 3,000 solar panels have recently been installed on the Somerset distribution centre, generating 1,000MWh of green electricity per year.
Tim is the son of Yeo Valley Organic co-founders Roger and Mary Mead; in 1961 they bought their first 30 cows at Holt Farm in the pretty village of Blagdon, Somerset.
The family still lives there today – but it’s now responsible for over 2,000 acres of land, including 600 acres of woodland. It’s easy to see how, prior to the pandemic, the Meads welcomed up to 50,000 people a year to their home.
The team likes nothing more than opening up the farm gates, and staff are gearing up to welcome visitors back to the valley for experience days ranging from farm tours to cookery and gardening demos.
The Yeo Valley Organic Garden, run by Tim’s wife Sarah, is one of the only ornamental gardens in the UK to be certified completely organic. This is where a lot of the magic and education around organic takes place, and Sarah loves nothing more than sharing growing tips with visitors.
This year Sarah will also be at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show with renowned garden designer Tom Massey. They’ll be bringing a slice of Somerset to SW3 with the dairy brand’s first show garden, which features Mendip stone, biochar logs from the woodland and a rich tapestry of flowering plants that support pollinators and nurture soil health.
A stone’s throw from Hyde Park, the Yeo Valley Café in London also re-opened in June, serving up delicious food and a fridge stocked with goodies.
The last year has been a challenge, but it hasn’t stopped everyone at Yeo Valley Organic from nurturing a sense of connection to the outside world and the food we eat.
The team has added a new circular walk on the Mendip Hills to visiting experiences, plus a new luxury stay in an old converted stone barn with
panoramic views of the valley. Yeo Valley Organic also sponsors Valley Fest, the South West’s best-tasting music festival.
‘What’s so wonderful’, says Tim, ‘is that we started as a family farm and we still are – but over time our family has slowly grown to include so many more people, from everyone who works with us to those who supply us or shop with us. We love nothing more than welcoming people through our gate.