The team at Healthy Food Guide headed to Somerset, along with 15 lucky competition winners and their plus ones, to tour the organic Yeo Valley farm.
With half my family hailing from a dairy farming background, I know my way around a country field. But Yeo Valley isn’t your average farm. For starters, they’re deeply committed to sustainable farming – working with nature, not fighting it – and have long been certified organic by The Soil Association.
You can happily spend a relaxing day trip there. Sign on to a walking tour of the farm and enjoy the stunning Somerset scenery, before tucking into a hearty and, of course, organic lunch at their canteen. Or, simply ogle at the country views with a homely tea and cake at the garden café.
Our winners’ day began with a tour of the organic gardens, lead by head gardener, Andi. We were guided around the beautiful beds and borders, as well as a greenhouse filled with jungle-like plants, while Andi shared her gardening tips.
Next, we headed off into the surrounding fields of Yeo’s two farms, Holt and Yoxter, home to 400 happy British Friesian cows who graze away on grass and clover. They also enjoy a diet of organic silage – effectively pickled grass, crimped wheat and other cereals. This ensures that they produce the highest quality, best tasting organic milk, which is used to make Yeo Valley’s yoghurt, butters and ice creams.
It’s been 50 years since Yeo Valley first began and second-generation owners, Tim and Sarah, continue to practice the sustainable values that the farm has always adhered to. Their soil is free from chemical fertilizers, their cows enjoy extra room to roam around and 50 acres of their farm is devoted purely to homing wildlife. The company also thinks long term and has invested in solar energy panels to power the farm.
To ensure our readers truly benefitted from the unwavering sunshine, Yeo Valley’s on-site fitness instructor, Lynne, took us through a quick Pilates class in a field. Our tour finished by meeting the latest additions to the herd – three utterly adorable new-born calves. Like all the others cows on the farm, they are each given a name.
Next stop: the canteen. And, much like everything at Yeo Valley, this was not your average canteen. With the restaurant taking bookings up to 3 months in advance, you need to plan ahead. With stunning views overlooking Blagdon Lake and a bright yet rustic interior, it wasn’t difficult to see why the restaurant is so popular.
The menu offers an array of dishes that make the most of local produce while championing the humble vegetable. We tucked into a nourishing bowl of green spelt risotto, garnished with feta and pea shoots, followed by a yoghurt (of course) pannacotta. It was all delicious, wonderfully comforting and nice to know that the ingredients hadn’t come much further than a field away – literally.
Lunch was followed by a cooking masterclass, lead by chef Paul, where we learned how to make beetroot burgers, Pimms jelly and two-ingredient linseed crackers, to name a few. Again, the focus was on vegetables and using local and seasonal ingredients. Paul managed to whip up six different dishes in the space of 30 minutes, proving just how easy healthy cooking can be.
Finally, we were all given an opportunity to taste a range of Yeo Valley yoghurt, from their thick and creamy Greek varieties to their slightly lighter natural and 0% fat yoghurts. Healthy Food Guide nutritionist, Amanda Ursell, was on-hand to explain the health benefits of yoghurt, including their varying fat and sugar content. Luckily, I’m already an avid yoghurt-lover and you don’t need to tell me twice to eat the creamy stuff!
Yeo Valley’s attitude to farming is exactly what you want, and expect, from a food producer. From their zero waste mentality – see their left-Yeovers yoghurt for proof! – to the way they look after their plants, land and animals, we could all learn a thing or two from Yeo Valley’s family farm.