Soil Association award for dairy farm siblings

Award-winners: brother and sister Caroline and Graham Tweddle with their organic herd.
Award-winners: brother and sister Caroline and Graham Tweddle with their organic herd.

AN organic dairy which prides itself on farming the ‘old fashioned way’ has won the highest possible national accolade.

Acorn Dairy – which has farms at Archdeacon Newton, Darlington and Spennithorne, near Leyburn – has been awarded the organic equivalent of an Oscar by the industry body the Soil Association beating fierce competition from the around the country.

Winner of the Best Organic Dairy Award 2012, judges were said to be “impressed and inspired by both the work on the farm, the retail operation and commitment to customers, delivering organic dairy products at a fair price, as well as a demonstrable commitment to the broader organic ethos”.

As well as the overall award, products won high praise in a blind-tasting, including highly-commended for the dairy’s whole milk and a commendation for its butter.

Acorn Dairy will now be able to carry the prestigious Soil Association Organic Foods Awards logo, a mark recognised and valued throughout the food industry.

Run by brother and sister Caroline and Graham Tweddle, with the help of semi-retired farmer Gordon, the farm converted to organic in 1998.

Graham said: “We are just a small farm operating in a largely non-organic market in this region.

“The majority of organic farming is centred in the South West and we are delighted to have done so well against some massively strong opposition.”

Caroline added: “We are passionate about organic dairy farming which benefits everyone – consumers, wildlife and cows.

“This award vindicates the hard work put in over the past decade and inspires us to continue with our goals.”

The dairy delivers door-to-door to more than 4,000 customers across North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and the North East, to shops including Waitrose and Morrisons, restaurants, cafes and schools.

The 190-strong herd of traditional dairy shorthorn cows are fed on grass and clover grown naturally, free from chemical fertilisers and the need to resort to artificial feeds and antibiotics.

Awards judge and lifestyle consultant Jo Woods said: “If we grow food from healthy soil then we naturally have a healthy organic chemical free diet, which goes in unison towards living a more sustainable life.”

The farm prides itself on animal welfare with special attention been given to cows’ feet, a regular source of injury and infection.

Special soft walkways have been constructed allowing the cows easy access from the grass fields to the milking parlour and teams inspect and treat hooves regularly to prevent health issues arising.

The farm has also become a haven for wildlife offering shelter to almost 70 local and migratory species of birds, bird boxes boasting a 90 per cent occupancy rate and ponds in a 16-acre reversion meadow offering a diverse habitat for wildlife.

Fresh oak trees are being planted to replace those affected by disease, age and storms and 2.4km of hawthorn hedge laid providing home and safe passage for a variety of animals.