Growing in the Somerset countryside
PUBLISHED: 14:17 25 June 2013 | UPDATED: 14:17 25 June 2013
The history of Yeo Valley
In 1961 Roger and Mary Mead, a newly married couple, started the search for a farm of their own.
Even then, farms didn’t come up for sale that often and so they spent about six months travelling around the Somerset and Devon countryside looking for something suitable. Roger’s family had farmed in the area for generations and as both Mary and Roger came from the West Country staying local was very important to them.
When they finally found Holt Farm in Blagdon, Roger quickly recognised its potential – it had really good land, with deep soil and high rainfall making it ideal for growing grass. It was a very traditional farm, the standard model for its day, with 35 cows, a few sheep and some acres of wheat.
Roger was very ambitious and didn’t want to settle for just 35 cows so, in 1970, when the neighbouring Lag Farm became available it was an ideal opportunity for expanding the herd - it also turned out to be the perfect place to set up a small yogurt dairy a couple of years later.
Having established the dairy herd, the Meads expanded into a sideline of pick-your-own fruit and vegetables. Visitors were always saying how they loved the picturesque spot in the valley by the lake, so they decided to set up a little tea room, serving scones, jam and clotted cream made from their own milk.
The teas proved extremely popular, however by making mountains of clotted cream to keep up with the demand there was one problem; an abundance of leftover skimmed milk.
Roger came up with the clever idea of using this milk for making yogurt. After some trials, and lots of taste tests, the family started selling the delicious yogurt around the valley from their Morris Minor van.
By the 1980s yogurt was becoming more popular, and with the first supermarkets starting up the demands for Yeo Valley’s yogurt and milk continued to grow.
Moving to organic in the early 1990s Yeo Valley found its spiritual home and in 1994 the Yeo Valley Organic brand was born. Since its conversion to organic, Yeo Valley has never looked back.
Today Yeo Valley is one of the largest organic business in the UK, making lots of delicious dairy product from more than two million litres of milk each week, sourced from the organic milk supplier’s cooperative (OMSCo) as well as their own British Friesian herd.
Yeo Valley Organic’s products are sold through retail outlets in the UK and Ireland, but the major UK retailers’ European branches also stock them.
The company now has factories in Cannington, Bridgwater and down into Devon as well.
Everything they make is 100 per cent ‘Yeoganic’, which is their way of saying ‘organic and a little bit more’ – they go the extra country mile to look after the soil, their animals and people.
The farm remains at the heart of Yeo Valley and the family says the company will always remain independent and family owned.
Looking to the future the Meads’ ongoing desire is to focus all efforts on building a sustainable British dairy brand that continues to support hard working British family farmers as well as their own employees.
In order to do this they say they will be continuing to produce great tasting dairy products and will be working hard to build strong relationships with more and more consumers to highlight the importance of British produced food from a family business.
For more on Yeo Valley, including a summer recipe from its cookbook or even how to get your hands on a cookbook see this month’s Somerset Life magazine.