Sometimes a physical change of scenery can help you clear your head and see things clearly and that's exactly what happened to me yesterday. I was lucky enough to be invited, along with a handful of other bloggers, to visit Yeo Valley - home of yummy yoghurt and some equally yummy farmers (well, so says their TV adverts!) - to find out more about the company behind all the yumminess and their way of doing things. When I recently wrote here about wanting to use my blog to find out more about the people and things that make me smile this trip was exactly the sort of thing I had in mind!
At its heart Yeo Valley is still centred around a family farm. Records of the Mead family farming in the area stretch back to the 1400s, but it was in 1961 that Roger and Mary Mead first moved to Holt Farm along with their 30 cows. By 1972 diversification had started with the first yoghurt being made from the skimmed milk left over from clotted cream. Sales were made around the valley in their Morris Minor van and that is where yeoghurt history really starts. Roger and Mary's son Tim (and his wife Sarah) now manage the farm and their yoghurts are sold in supermarkets across the country. Their product range has also extended to include butter, milk, ice cream, frozen yoghurt and compotes. That's not the end of the Yeo Valley story though.
What I discovered when I visited was that Yeo Valley as a company also run their Yeoniversity where they share with the public (especially school children) everything they have learnt from their time farming the land. We were given an insight into one of these sessions and I was immediately won over by the company's passion about what they do in the Valley and the value of sessions like this to children, especially those from inner-cities who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit such stunning countryside.
It's not only children who get to share in the Yeo Valley experience though. There are Farm and Environment Tours and also Food and Gardening ones too. When Sarah Mead moved to Somerset she came with no gardening knowledge and experience, but since then she has built up (with the help of her team of gardeners) six and a half acres of the stunning Yeo Valley Organic Gardens. Everything there is homemade, right from the compost and liquid plant food through to the delicious scones that we were served after our garden tour. These gardens are very much on a par with what you see at many National Trust properties, and the stunning surroundings of the Mendips and Blagdon Lake set them off perfectly.
- The Yeoniversity and in particular the value of teaching children about farming and the countryside.
- The Yeo Valley Organic Garden and the challenges and benefits that organic gardening holds.
- Cooking with yoghurt. Whilst at Yeo Valley we were treated to a wonderful cookery demonstration with the Yeo Valley chef, Jamie, and I really had my eyes opened to the possibilities of using yoghurt in a range of recipes. I've got plans to recreate some of these at home and hope to share them with you here. Yeo Cheesecake - including making cheese from yoghurt.
I will update this post with links just as soon as the subsequent posts are written, but now I'm so inspired by what I saw yesterday that I'm off to the garden to make the most of the sunshine and to sort out my little veg plot!