Mary Mead has been presented with the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ Princess Royal Award by Her Royal Highness at Buckingham Palace on Thursday 30 April. The honour was made for her outstanding services to the UK dairy industry.
Mary Mead currently oversees her family’s 1,400 acre organic mixed farming enterprise based at Holt Farm, Blagdon, Bristol and featuring the 420 pedigree Lakemead herd of British Friesians, together with young stock, beef and arable crops, the aim being to be as self-sufficient as possible. Any surplus is sold. The unit also includes 50 acres dedicated to wildlife conservation whilst Miscanthus and PV cells enable the farming business to be energy self-sufficient.
A former nurse, she embraced the role of farmer’s wife following marriage to Roger. The couple realised early on that to provide for their family they must be innovative and they subsequently diversified with cash crops, pick-your-own and a cream tea trade beside Blagdon Lake. A small scale yogurt production and local van-delivery business followed, eventually leading to the Yeo Valley brand, now the UK’s biggest organic brand and enjoyed in eight million UK households.
Following Roger’s untimely death due to a farm accident in 1990, Mary assumed responsibility for the farm enterprise enabling son, Tim to focus on the milk processing business. They were both determined to place British farming sustainably at the forefront of their decision making strategy, planning for a long term future. Yeo Valley now has an annual £300m plus turnover, employs over 1,800 employees and produces more than eight million pots of yogurt per week.
Mary has served on the RABDF Council, and is currently a committee member of the British Friesian Breeders Club. She has been a staunch supporter of the breed and a driving force for the club since its formation in 1990. She was instrumental in achieving separate genetic evaluation for the British Friesian, enabling the breed’s fertility and longevity to be recognised not only nationally, but globally. The breed’s resurgence is reflected in semen exports growing rapidly in the last five years to 17 countries with Lakemead bulls being fully represented.
Her achievements in the farming industry were recognised by the University of Bristol with an Honorary Master of Arts Degree, the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards Farmer of the Year, and an OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours List. However, Mary regards her greatest achievements to be continuing the work started by Roger and their values which have been instilled into her three children and nine grandchildren.
RABDF chairman, Ian Macalpine said: “Mary Mead has made an enormous contribution to the dairy sector for over 50 years, and she is a great role model. Mary demonstrates dedication, enthusiasm and tenacity, and she is well read and informed. She has remained stoic to the British Friesian breed and has had a huge input to the organic sector through development of the Yeo Valley brand. I believe she is a worthy winner of this award.”