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Meet the Farmers' Champion

PUBLISHED: 17:57 08 September 2011 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

Meet the Farmers' Champion

Meet the Farmers' Champion

Somerset Life talks to organic dairy farmer Derek Mead

Somerset Life talks to organic dairy farmer Derek Mead


Derek Mead is chairman of a group of companies that is involved in a range of activities, including property development. The Mead Group also runs the biggest auction centre in the South of England and the popular Puxton Park family attraction near Weston-super-Mare.


What is your family history?
We were mainly dairy farmers. My mothers maiden name was Tripp and her family came from Worle. They had lived round here
for generations and we
were good serfs on the big estate! My father came from
Kent and was a toolmaker
by trade.


How large is your farm today?
Today we have 1,600 acres and farm about 350 organic dairy cows, about 700 breeding ewes, some beef and corn. My daughter Katherine is Managing Director of Junction 24 auction centre and my son Alistair runs the farms and Puxton Park family adventure park.


When did you decide to diversify?
It was in the 1970s during the expansion of Weston and Worle. The old Weston Borough Council served a compulsory purchase order on us for 25 acres. We beat them hands down and ever since then I have been interested in planning and planning law. But I still class myself as a farmer.


What are the challenges facing the farming community?
This country has a population of 62 million but self sufficiency is dropping below 50%, which is an absolute disgrace. It is irresponsible for the Government to be relying 50% on imports. The main problem is the relationship between the supermarkets and the primary producer. We are classed as 2% of the population, which is rubbish because we are a major part of the food industry the biggest industry in the country.


How did you become a founder member of the campaign group Farmers for Action?
I could see fellow farmers going through difficult times. I also served nine years on the NFU and pushed forward the Little Red Tractor logo with the Union Jack surrounding it, so that it has to be used on British products.
I have also campaigned hard for a proper Code of Conduct with the supermarkets to ensure farmers receive proper returns.


What was the idea behind Puxton Park at Hewish?
It came out of the major foot and mouth outbreak in 2002 when the Government was encouraging farmers to get closer to the public so they could understand where food came from. We modelled Puxton Park on the Curry Report (The Report of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food).


When did the Sedgemoor Auction Centre at Junction 24 in Bridgwater open?
Just over three years ago after the closure of the markets in Taunton and Highbridge. I think the farmers are really chuffed with it and it has put the heart into livestock farming in the South West. It pulls in people from all over the country, and during the spring sales, for example, the market was completely full. It has become a one-stop shop for farmers. We also have events such as bands at TheVenue@J24 and conferences.


What are your favourite parts of Somerset?
I think Exmoor is my favourite as the landscape there is so different. I also love the Somerset Levels when the wind is blowing and the reeds are rattling.


For more information on Puxton Park visit puxton.co.uk or call 01934 523500.
More information on events at The
Venue@J24 can be found at www.junction24ltd.co.uk.
Visit themeadgroup.co.uk for the latest news on"The Mead Group companies.

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