Roger and Mary Mead started their family farm in 1961, with just 35 cows and a few sheep. Today, Yeo Valley has grown the UK’s Number One organic dairy brand, and Spinneys has an exclusive partnership with the company to supply, cream, Greek-style and natural yoghurts, butter and milk.
Yeo Valley’s milk comes from its own herd of British Friesian cows and from the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative, which supports other British family farms. The ‘Yeoganic’ philosophy means that everyone at Yeo Valley goes the extra mile to look after the land, animals and planet.
The Mead family’s ancestors first started farming in the county of Somerset in South West England in the 1400s. The land in the Yeo Valley (yes – it’s a real place!) is damp and fertile – ideal for cows.
In 2011, the Mary Mead and her son Tim celebrated the family’s 50-year anniversary in the valley, winning the farm’s third Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development and the Good Dairy Award from Compassion in World Farming. Today, the farm employs more than 1,000 people and is home to about 11,000 cows.
A cow’s life
The Meads breed their own cows, and each of Yeo Valley’s 11,000 British Friesians has a name and a very detailed family tree. Because organic cows need organic feed, the farm’s cows graze on grass and clover in the fields.
The cows are milked twice a day, at 4.30am and 4pm. Relaxed, happy cows give the most milk, so not only do all the Meads’ cows roam free, each milking cow also gets its own sleeping quarters, complete with a comfy mattress.
Each cow’s diet is nutritionally balanced and, unlike some other farms, Yeo Valley cows are not given drugs like antibiotics routinely. If a cow is feeling under the weather, she will be removed from the milking herd until she’s better and there is no trace of any medication in her milk.
Yeo Valley’s dairies are nestled among woodlands that attract native wildlife. Quick-growing trees like poplars are planted to provide carbon-neutral fuel for the farm’s wood-burning stoves. And elephant grass is used as a sustainable biofuel for the boiler. Everyone at the Yeo Valley farm is committed to sustainability. All Yeogurt pots are made from recycled plastic. Farm waste like cardboard and shrink-wrap is recycled. And In its mission to use fewer fossil fuels, Yeo Valley chooses 100% green electricity for its dairies. Photovoltaic cells on the roof of the Holt Farm Dairy convert sunlight directly into electricity, with the potential to generate enough energy to power 140 houses for a year, and a field of solar panels powers the milk bottling plant.