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Episode 26: With Tim Mead

In this week’s podcast, Patrick talks to Tim Mead, founder and CEO of Yeo Valley – the UK’s largest organic dairy brand, based just outside of Bristol, at Holt Farm. As well as manufacturing organic dairy products, the family farm in Somerset farms a regenerative organic mixed farming system with two dairy herds along with beef and sheep spanning 2,000 acres.

During the conversation, Tim shares some of the changes that the dairy industry has faced over the past few decades and the affects these change have had on smaller farms. However, by strengthening the market for organic dairy, he hopes to encourage more environmentally sustainable and financially viable farming methods, on a wider scale.

On the topic of scale, Patrick is keen to understand the limitations of farming on a commercial level – can food still have a story, or provenance? How will this impact the future of our food systems? Tim emphasises that, despite the scale at which Yeo Valley now operates, their core mission remains unchanged: ‘We want to make good, healthy, nutritious food available to everyone’.

The two agree that, as it stands, farmers are not valued enough for their contribution to society. Many are pressured into intensifying their farms in order to make a living, which reflects a major downfall of our current food systems. “Why are we not able to value somebody making a contribution towards the production of dense, nutritious, quality food?” asks Tim.

Finally, they discuss the topic of soil carbon, which Tim has been carefully studying on his own farm. ‘The potential for soil to store carbon is immense’, Tim explains, pointing out that it can store three times more carbon than plants and trees combined. The implications of his analysis indicate that by looking after the soil, regenerative farmers have a unique opportunity to sequester carbon from the air and store it in the ground. These farming methods are paving the way for a new narrative around livestock – one which works in harmony with nature, rather than against it.

 

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Tim was born into a dairy farming family in 1963. He lives with his wife Sarah in the original farm, in the Yeo Valley on the edge of Blagdon Lake, Somerset, where it all started. After qualifying as a chartered accountant in London, Tim joined the Yeo Valley business in 1987. Yeo Valley Organic is the UK’s largest organic brand and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019. Today, Tim continues to lead the family-owned business forward by championing organic regenerative farming and soil health as the best way to produce nutritious food while helping to reverse climate change.