our farmers, your milk
Thursday 3rd November 2011
Your organic milk, cream, butter and brie comes from Acorn Dairy near Darlington. The Tweddle family has farmed at Archdeacon Newton for four generations, since 1928, and weíve been working with them since Home Farm started selling vegboxes almost 5 years ago. They began delivering milk in the 1930s but like many small dairies were gradually pushed out by larger businesses. After converting to organic status, Gordon and Linda Tweddle set up Acorn Dairy in 2000 with their son Graham, before their daughter Caroline joined in 2005.
Altogether the Tweddles have 200 cows at Garthorne Farm, 150 at Hallwith Farm, and 200 young stock, ranging from newly born calves to in-calf heifers, and farm a total of 680 acres. The cows enjoy lots of indoor and outdoor space and all the young stock live on the farm and get plenty of human attention and care. All this results in happier cows and better tasting milk.
The lynchpin of organic milk production is that it is as natural as possible. Routine application of artificial chemicals (standard in conventional farming these days) in the form of antibiotics, pesticides and fertilisers is prohibited. Acorn Dairy cows graze on pasture much of the year, grown in a holistic farming system where fertility is maintained by crop and livestock rotation and farmyard manure, not the addition of artificial fertilisers. The herd gets a small ration of cattle feed when they are milked to top up their diet and help with milk production, and it also makes them very happy to walk into the milking stalls! Organic rules forbid genetically modified ingredients going into this additional feed, again, unlike in conventional dairy farming.
The Tweddlesí farms have a range of soil types including limestone rock and sandy clay loam over boulder clay. They are gradually changing the breed of cow they rear from a mix of British Friesian and Holstein towards the Dairy Shorthorn, which is better suited to producing milk from an organic rotation with large amounts of forage, and the flavour of Acorn Dairy milk comes from the clover-rich diet the herds graze. Whatever we sell here at Riverford we always do our best to ensure the producers are likeminded farmers who care about the quality of the food they make and the ethics of how it is made. Thankfully, finding the Tweddles made this very easy for us.