Last month, myself and Sara headed to Bristol (a city known for its history, culture and most importantly, delicious food) to attend a Soil Association Learning Day.

Hosted at the very impressive Yeo Valley farm (just outside of Bristol), it was a one-day refresher on all things organic – Ceres has several organic clients including Crazy Jack, Tarantella and Doves Farm, so it was great to be able to top up our knowledge around the world of organic farming, what it entails and how it’s quickly becoming a rising trend among consumers once again. According to the Soil Association, the UK organic market is on target to be worth £2.5 billion by 2020[1].

The day included insights from experts at the Soil Association (the UK’s leading food and farming charity and organic certification board), as well as an informative talk from Yeo Valley about their business journey and how they have come to be one of the biggest organic brands in the UK.

My key learnings from the day include:

Why are the Soil Association not called the Organic Association?

The Soil Association often get asked why they have not changed their name to the ‘Organic Association’ many times. Their answer? Because they are “of the soil” and the soil is where everything starts – from the soil, to the plants, to what the animals are fed and then on to the planet, we are all connected.

Why does the Soil Association promote organic farming?

There are five core reasons the Soil Association promotes organic farming. It’s food you can trust, it’s nutritionally different, it’s better for the wildlife, it maintains good animal welfare and, overall, it’s better for the planet. All organic food is fully traceable, from farm to fork, and all organic food must be legally certified - the Soil Association state that 11% of their inspections are ‘secret’ to ensure their high regulations are being met.

Do organic standards include animal welfare?

Organic farms look after their animals. Farms such as Yeo Valley are proud of how they treat their animals, from allowing them more space to roam so they grow slower to feeding them with special diets, the welfare of the animal is considered a priority every step of the way.

Why is organic food more expensive?

Consumers often relate organic food to being expensive, but there’s a reason it can cost more. It can take two years to convert a farm to organic, meaning that some yields drop and can’t be sold, plus because the animals aren’t fattened quickly, they can live almost twice as long which means the farmer will spend even longer maintaining their welfare!

Following the seminar, we were treated to a delicious two course lunch in the Yeo Valley canteen – a quirky, open space which had a full wall view of the picturesque valley. Lunch included melt in your mouth beef, accompanied by homemade Yorkshire Puddings and tasty kale, which was then followed by a sweet Lemon Posset and gooey, rich brownie. A good dose of fuel for our next adventure out to Holt Farm, the farm where Yeo Valley began.

    Here we met the VIPs of the day, the Yeo Valley cows. Armed with a camera and a pair of wellies, we learnt how they are cared for, the feed they eat everyday and how Mary Mead, who was one of the original founders of Yeo Valley and is now in her early-80s, still comes to tend to them every day.

    We were then led around the farm where we were shown the farmhouse where it all began, the diverse plants, flowers and trees which help wildlife to flourish and, most excitingly, the week-old baby calves!

    Overall, the day was informative, good fun and very beneficial. We can’t wait to go back and visit the cows again soon!

    [1] Organic Market 2019 Report (Page 4) https://www.soilassociation.org/media/18224/omr-report-2019-interactive.pdf

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