This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, released on 19 Dec 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
What do you get when you arm a collective of artists with 3,000 buckets of manure and drop them off in a field in Somerset?
In the case of Yeo Valley, the answer is a giant cow artwork that celebrates organic farming.
The cow poo mural was painted into a field owned by Yeo Valley to coincide with the organic dairy company’s 25th birthday, which fell in Organic September – a month dedicated to raising awareness of the benefits of organic.
‘We made it using the cow muck from the farm to get a message across – that organic farming works with, and not against, the natural environment’, explains Yeo Valley’s Sarah Mead. ‘Organic farming can help tackle climate change because healthy soil can store excess carbon from the atmosphere.’
Logistics for the moo-ral
70 metres wide and 50 metres high, the giant cow artwork compares with other well-known West Country landscape murals like the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset (55 metres high) and the Westbury White Horse in Wiltshire (55 metres high and 52 metres wide).
Heather Jane Wallace and Rebecca Barnard, directors of Heritage Courtyard Gallery and Studios in Wells, Somerset gathered 10 artists to create the work of art, which took a week to complete.
Heather admits that carrying the poo up the steep hill was ‘very exhausting’, and that it was also difficult to get the scale right. Great big household brooms were used to paint the manure into the grass, but Heather soon realised that only huge shapes could be seen from a distance, and details like eyelashes were lost.
Despite the challenges, when Sarah Mead brought the idea to the gallery Heather loved it. ‘I’m a Somerset girl’, she says. ‘My brother, nephew and grandfather are farmers. I really understand the message.’
Disappearance of the countryside
When Heather grew up, farming was naturally organic; today, according to Defra’s Organic farming statistics 2018, organically farmed area represents just 2.7% of the total farmed area on the UK’s agricultural holdings.