A North East dairy that supplies homes and businesses across the region is celebrating 25 years of farming organically.
The Tweddle family have been farming at Acorn Dairy, in Archdeacon Newton, near Darlington, for 95 years. In 1998, Gordon and Linda, along with their children Graham and Caroline, decided to convert their 360-acre farming system and attain Soil Association organic status.
The herd was no longer issued routine antibiotics and no chemical-based fertilisers or herbicides have been used on the land.
Graham said: “Organic farming was still a relatively ‘left field’ concept when we chose it. We faced a steep learning curve – how to produce food without modern chemicals. However, working alongside the Soil Association, we and our small team soon discovered it was all about going back to basics and working with nature, rather than against it.
“So, when it comes to keeping our cows healthy, we believe that prevention is better than cure. All the animals have plenty of space indoors during the winter and graze outside for the rest of the year, and all of our cows enjoy high levels of human care and attention.
“The result is relaxed, healthy cows who produce delicious milk.”
The move to organic has not only benefitted the animals reared on the farm, but also the wildlife that calls it home.
Caroline added: “We’re so pleased with the positive impact organic farming has had on local wildlife; following an RSPB survey, we know the farm provides habitat for over 80 species of bird, with sightings of kestrels, skylarks, sparrowhawks, curlews, fieldfares and herons now common.
“Having seen the impact of our move to organic, in more recent years we’ve also made a number of changes on the farm to cement our commitment to sustainable, environmentally-friendly farming practices.
“We now create and use our own green energy from our on-site wind turbine and solar panels. We bottle all milk in our own plant, which reduces unnecessary food miles for our customers, and we use glass bottles, which cuts 425kg per week of plastic from the local food chain.”
In 2022, from the Farming Carbon Toolkit Assessment, pastures under Acorn Dairy organic dairy rotation for 25 years were shown to have 50 per cent more organic matter and 70 per cent more carbon in the top 50cm of soil, than neighbouring arable fields farmed more intensively until recently.
In recognition of its work, in 2021 Acorn was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development. Over the years, it has also won the Compassion in World Farming, Good Dairy Award for Cow and Calf Welfare Award, and been named the Soil Association’s Best Organic Dairy in 2012, Ethical Consumer Magazine’s Best Dairy Milk Brand in 2020 & Deliciously Yorkshire Best Wholesaler 2022.
With local milk consumers liking the ethos and quality Acorn Dairy brings to their fridge, growth in demand has led to more land being farmed organically. Through collaborations with other farms, Acorn Dairy customers are now responsible for and additional 760 acres of organic farming, totalling 1120 acres in total. Organic land has 50 per cent more wildlife (Soil Assoc.), so this is a direct and tangible benefit from choosing Acorn Dairy organic milk.
As well as doorstep deliveries, Acorn also offers a trade service to cafes, restaurants and shops across the region and many a coffee fan will have enjoyed some of Acorn Dairy’s Barista Milks, served across the northern counties.
For more information, visit https://www.acorndairy.co.uk/