Acorn Dairy’s Fundraiser

MORE than 500 doorstep customers headed down to the farm to hear a green tale of 25 years of success and plans for the future.

Acorn Dairy celebrated a quarter of a century of going organic by opening its gates to customers and their families, raising £950 for charity in the process.

The three day open event, in aid of St Teresa’s Hospice, saw visitors given the grand tour of the land, aboard a tractor and trailer, the feed sheds and milking parlour.

Three generations of Tweddles were on hand to talk to people about their organic journey which began in 1998, including Gordon and Linda, their children Graham and Caroline Bell and granddaughter Georgia.

“It was a family idea to think about the long-term sustainability of the business,” recalled Gordon. “Instead of just producing a commodity we decided we should have selective lines, healthy products and we did some research with Newcastle University that showed our milk is better for you than conventional, non-organic milk.

“This gave us a niche market and we have enjoyed having loyal customers ever since. It has proved to be great for the environment, for local employment and for locking carbon into the soil. We remain about high quality, healthy products, sold at a reasonable price.”

Acorn Dairy, which operates from a 750-acre farm, at Archdeacon Newton, Darlington, enjoys an enviable reputation for conservation, compassion and commercial enterprise.

It is a past winner of the Tye Trophy for the Tyne Tees region from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, an accolade that recognises the efforts it makes to operate a successful business while conserving the environment and boosting animal welfare.

It is also a holder of the organic ‘Oscar’ issued by the Soil Association and the Good Dairy Award by Compassion in World Farming, the international welfare campaign group.

The organic farming movement, which rejects artificial feeds, insecticides and the over-use of antibiotics in favour of natural processes, tends to be concentrated in the South West of the country. Acorn Dairy is seen as an organic island in a sea of intensively farmed land that predominates in the North-East.

Customers include almost 4,000 doorsteps, schools, cafes, restaurants and cheese makers right across the North-East and North Yorkshire.

Research has shown organic milk to be much richer in antioxidants, healthy fatty acids and Omega 3 as a result of the herd feeding on grass and clover.

Acorn’s 500-strong herd of predominantly shorthorn cross breeds offers a natural rate of milk production which is less than in an intensive farming system, allowing the cows to live longer, happier and healthier lives.

Compassion for animals extends to the farm as a whole and Acorn Dairy has created a thriving wetland for flora and fauna, birds and small mammals.

Bird boxes have a 90 per cent occupancy rate and the 16 acre reversion meadow is a haven for a variety of species of local and visiting birds, including skylarks, sparrowhawks, herons, curlews and kestrels, while miles of hedgerows provide safe passage and homes for countless creatures.

Graham said the wetlands at Bogglehole were planted with varieties to provide plenty of food for birds in the winter. The vegetation grew to a height of 3.5ft before toppling over when it provided shelter for small mammals. Hedges were left until March before being cut.

He told visitors that the 50kW wind turbine and 50kW solar panels provided the power for the parlour and processing plant, and being based on the farm reduced food miles. Reusable glass bottles were offered cut down on plastics.

Customers Denise and Ricard Rudkin, of Darlington, said the visit had been a very positive experience.

Mrs Rudkin added: “We became customers during COVID and the lockdown when we couldn’t get out. We have continued because we like to support a local business and the milk is great.

“It has been a great move for us and you feel it must be better for you being organic. I love coming to the farm as you learn such a lot – who knew so much went into a pint of milk?”

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