Thursday 9th June 2022
Rich Greaves has been working as Assistant Farms Manager on the Yeo Valley Organic Farms since 2019. For the past two years, we’ve all dealt with many changes with the global pandemic, but life on the farm has ‘ploughed’ on regardless! We sat down with him to find out a bit more about what makes him tick…
‘I’m not sure that I have an ‘average day’, I do have jobs that need to be done daily and weekly, but different things crop up all the time! Generally, I need to make sure all the dairy/livestock units are operating as they should and field operations are happening accordingly. I have learnt a lot about dairy cow nutrition in my time here and so spend a lot of time getting our feed stocks analysed and then developing rations to feed the cows. I’m also working to solve any problems that arise like organising machinery fixes or looking at milk yield discrepancies. Another part of my role is forward planning for jobs around the farm and the juggling of staff needed for them.
Now that the cows are out in the fields to graze, I work closely with our herd managers Gabbi and Steve to look at the grazing patterns of the herds. They know the cows so well, they’re in the best place to plan effectively for each herd group.
We also think about our grass leys and how they will work within the ecosystem of the farm. Herbal leys are a grass mix designed to feed the cows and replenish the soil with nutrients. A diverse ley will benefit both the herd and the soil!
I really enjoy the variety of my job, working with different people and the forever changing dynamics of the agricultural industry. It can be a high pressure industry to work in and at times it can be financially tough, but people will always need food.
Everyday can present a challenge! What makes a good farmer is being willing and able to tackle a challenge head on, under all the time pressures that farmers have – there are never enough hours in the day! If I need a bit of thinking time there’s a hill nearby which has a great view overlooking the valley.
Me and the family are outdoorsy – we love to go walking and cycling. My two daughters love horse riding which takes up a lot of our spare time! We’re so lucky to live on the Mendips with all the countryside nearby. We’re also very close to Exmoor. The peace and quiet, the stunning landscape and clear night skies is very relaxing! It’s always nice to run into the famous Exmoor ponies too. Henry our Jack Russell loves to join in on our family adventures.
My wife and I used to run our own dairy farm so if I didn’t work at Yeo Valley, I’d still be doing that I think. If I had to leave farming completely, I’d still need a hands-on practical job.
The most surprising thing I found when I started working here was how many people know the brand and how many loyal customers we have. I really like how we tell the story of our farms and talk about the regenerative organic farming we’re doing. It’s almost like the educational side of Yeo! How to farm more sustainably is something I have thought more about since I started working here. How it’s important to find that balance between the bottom line and farming for the future and looking after the soil. It can be hard for farmers to try new ways of farming when they haven’t got the reassurance of the milk price, but the importance of regenerative farming is starting to be recognised by the whole industry. Things are moving forward!
A job that I look forward to is crimping the grain in the autumn. It means long days but it’s satisfying to know the job is done. It’s planted in the spring then when it’s time to harvest, you’ve got a short window to combine, crimp it and sheet it down. Crimping means that we run the grain through a set of rollers which cracks the shell of it basically. The challenge is that everything else still needs to happen as well! It’s a busy few days but good fun!
I’ll always remember when Inside the Factory came to film, Gregg Wallace was quite funny when he was in with the cows! We’ve had quite a few famous faces come to visit in my time at Yeo – Gregg, Nadiya Hussain and the Countryfile team. We also have events through the year where visitors can come and see us on the farm. So, there’s always something going on in the Valley!