The Bristol area is home to a number or large food and drink brands whose products are sold commercially all over the country. Obviously we have all of the big local cider companies (Thatchers being a prime example) but dairy brand Yeo Valley also fall within the BS postcode area, being situated in the picturesque village of Blagdon.
A large company they may be, but still with the values and the personality of a small, local brand. The Mead family (company owner Tim and his wife still live on the farm) have been farming in the valley since the 1400s. Their own cows (they have two herds of British Friesians) still provide the milk used in their products – and are very well looked after. Massive expansion has meant that their own herd only produce about 5% of the milk that they use, but they use OMSCO to support local farmers who supply them with the additional milk that they need.
It’s not just about the milk, either. Their six and a half acre gardens (the handiwork of Tim’s wife Sarah and her team) are – as far as the Soil Association are aware – are the only certified organic ornamental gardens in the country. As much garden waste as possible is recycled and reused as compost, liquid feed and other elements, with very little bought in from external sources.
Yeo Valley’s gardens and tea rooms are open for public visits. They also bring in groups of local school children to teach them about sustainability. They host various events and talks for the public, such as gardening talks and their “Catch and Cook” day that they held in May, and they run both Farm and Food Tours, giving the public an insight into how the brand operates.
Not what you’d expect from a brand that produces 2,200 tons of yoghurt each year, is it? I must admit that I was quite surprised to learn just how much of a small brand mentality (in a good way) these guys have. I was lucky enough – along with a handful of food bloggers from around the country – to be invited to the farm in May 2012 to learn about the brand and how they operate – and to taste some yoghurt, of course!
After a brief background of the company, we were taken on a tour of the fantastic gardens by James, one of the team of five who do all of the gardening and design work. It’s a beautiful place, with various individual gardens including a woodland garden and two meadows – I’d highly advise a visit if you get the chance.
We even met some of the cows on our travels – who were very inquisitive!
Heading back to the tea rooms, we were introduced by Ben to the full range of Yeo Valley yoghurts in a mammoth tasting session. Highlights for me were definitely the Rhubarb and the Lemon Curd varieties…
Having gorged ourself on yoghurt, it was time to watch a cookery demonstration from Yeo Valley chef Jaime, who taught us how to make two varieties of cheese from yoghurt, along with yoghurt sourdough, home-smoked trout with no need for a smoker, and mini individual cheesecakes (with a yoghurt base), served in jam jars. I’ll definitely be making these at home – they’ll be great for dinner parties!
After sitting down to enjoy our lunch, we returned to the gardens for a talk on composting from James, followed by a tour of the vegetable gardens from Will – the produce from which supplies the tea rooms, the Mead family and Yeo Valley’s other premises in the valley.
We left our educational and entertaining day, armed with a goodie bag stuffed with a variety of Yeo Valley yoghurts and some brilliant recipes to recreate at home. A fantastic day, and great to learn more about a company that remains local despite its massive growth in production volumes. Thanks to everyone that contributed to our day!
To see more photos from the day, have a look at the album on our Facebook page…
Find Yeo Valley Organic on the Bristol Bites Directory…