It was one of those fresh Autumn days when I arrived after an epic train journey and taxi ride in the depths of deepest darkest Somerset at the Yeo Valley. This blog has given me many, many opportunities but by far the best for me so far has been the opportunity to go and actually see the Yeo Valley. Yeo Valley are one of the brands that I buy, regular readers will be aware that if I can I do try to buy organic clothes, beauty/ skincare products and organic dairy and meat. When I first had Toddler Boy I tried to buy 100% organic foods, but I soon realised that this was a bit futile and simply far too expensive. Sure enough his grand parents gave him all sorts of sweets and he developed a love of fish-fingers. However, I have remained solid in some of my buying habits and organic dairy is perhaps the most solid of these.
I was intrigued to see whether the Yeo Valley farms would actually live up to expectations. I am pleased to report that they did and in fact they far exceeded what I thought they would be like. They really are an environmentally aware family business. I was really impressed with the thought that has gone into making sure that the animals are well looked after and the views they enjoyed whilst grazing! I came away feeling that this is the way that all farming businesses should be run, respectful of people, animals and the environment.
When we arrived we were taken to the Mendip Centre the headquarters of Holt Farms, this is a stunning environmentally conscious building which boasts a fabulous dinning room with the most spectacular views. However, soon enough we all bundled into a Land Rover and were taken on an extensive tour of the farms. I learnt loads of things, the process of organic dairy farm
ing is more complex than I had imagined and is dependent on a good system of crop rotation. I learnt that in the summer cows like to eat white clover and in the winter they eat red clover, if they eat the red in the summer they suffer from a lot of bloating!
What I found so impressive about the Yeo Valley farms was the consideration that had been taken in order to make sure that they were environmentally friendly. From the amazing barn used for school groups which uses eco- technology to power itself, through to the fields of Miscanthus, a bio fuel being grown to power the offices. Even old tyres had been recycled and used for building a retaining wall. The environmentally aware ethos runs through the core of the whole business. I have to admit, I was surprised.
The UK dairy farming industry has undergone massive changes in recent years and the numbers of farmers has decreased. It was great to see that Yeo Valley are actually still a family run business and that there is a great deal of pride in their achievements. The first farm was bought in 1961 by Tim’s parents and that farm is at the core of their business today. When Tims parents bought a neighbouring farm and started to do PYO and cream teas they began to venture into yogurt making, that’s how Yeo Valley came to where it is today.
Fortunately for me, we also got the chance to see the Blagdon Dairy where the yogurt’s are produced, it was an amazing experience having only seen places like that on the television before. The process is controlled through a computer system which frankly looked far too complicated for the likes of me. We then donned fetching hairnets, wellys and underwent the strict procedures to actually go onto the floor of the dairy and witness some of what happens. It was interesting to see and hear how the yogurt we eat for desert each day is actually made. I felt confident in their procedures and as a result it’s actually quite unlikely that I will buy another brand of yogurt(although I do know which ‘own’ brands they make!)
All in all, if you care about the food you eat, the environmental practices that go into making it and the welfare of the animals and indeed workers that have a had part to play in its production then Yeo Valley Organic is one of those brands which should form the basis of your weekly shopping list. Given that my price comparisons with other similar products suggests that there is very little, or in fact no difference in price, you really do have nothing to lose!
Yeo Valley Farms are part of a scheme where school children can come and visit and learn all about the farm, if you live in the area it might be worth asking your school about the possibility of a trip, it’s somewhere that I would love to take my children. If you want to learn loads more about Yeo Valley, see some fab images and find out about competitions visit their website.
It only remains for me to thank the team at Yeo Valley for making me feel so welcome, in particular Tim for his fantastic informative tour and for being so enthusiastic about his business. I hope this blog serves as a bit of encouragement for him to get on-line!