Last week, on a gorgeously sunny Tuesday, I was invited to the stunning Yeo Valley HQ in Blagdon for a dreamy summer’s day learning all about the importance of organic farming.
Organised by the Soil Association, myself and other foodies were invited to spend some time at the West Country’s most famous organic dairy farm to see the ins and outs of a working farm, and what makes organic so important. It was all in aid of Organic September, a whole month celebrating organic food and educating others as to what organic means exactly.
After a quick pit stop for a cup of tea and some heavenly cheese scones, we began our tour of the farm. I have to admit that the main motivation for my attendance was to see exactly how a dairy farm works; I’m well aware of the horror stories surrounding the dairy industry and after a couple of brief stints of veganism I wanted to make my mind up about my overall opinion permanently.
The main difference between standard dairy farming practice and organic, it turns out, is quite overwhelming. Shortly after visiting Yeo Valley I met a butcher who was adamant that the organic ‘label’ means absolutely nothing, and that it is purely a marketing gimmick. But having witnessed it first hand on this particular day, and after a talk by our expert tour guide, I am yet to be convinced of this angry butcher’s rhetoric. Organic farming seems the only logical option for me.
Yeo Valley have changed everything about their farming practices in order to meet the scrupulous organic certification standard. They spent years changing the pH and mineral composition of their soil in order to grow the right clover for the cows to graze on. They also raise a breed of cow which produces less milk on than the average American dairy cow, but it means that the animal isn’t purely used as a ‘milk machine’ and the meat can be used afterwards.
What it boils down to for me is an over-consumption of meat in general. I’ve been an on-and-off vegetarian/vegan for years and never really made my mind up. You only need to read up on use of antibiotics in standard farming practices to send a shiver down your spine. This trip was hugely beneficial for me because it’s opened my eyes to the practices of organic farming, and confirmed what I had already assumed – eating local, high quality organic produce is good for both you and the planet.
After a stroll through fields surrounding the farm we went back to Yeo Valley HQ for a cooking demo and some of the most beautiful food I have ever eaten.
Organic food might seem to some like a pointless necessity and frivolous indulgence especially when money is tight, but I urge you to read up about it and see if it’s the right choice for you. It can start with small steps – I’m going to try and adopt more mindful purchasing this September, starting with organic dairy. It’s the little things that count.
A huge thanks to the Soil Association for inviting me along and to Yeo Valley for showing us around and all the amazing food.