A COUNTY Durham organic dairy has been named the best in the country.

Acorn Dairy beat off stiff competition to be named named Best Organic Dairy 2012 by the Soil Association.

Chief judge and food writer Lynda Brown said: “Acorn farm is a gem – the kind of local farming enterprise that makes your heart jump for joy.

“Their farming practices, their commitment to care for the environment, animal welfare and their obvious dedication to their customers is inspirational.

“Acorn produces highquality delicious dairy products at competitive prices and it is an outstanding example of why family farms are so important.”

In a blind-tasting, the judges also highly commended its whole milk and commended its butter.

Acorn Dairy farms at Garthorne Farm, Archdeacon Newton, Darlington, and Hallwith Farm, Spennithorne, near Leyburn.

Today, it is run by Graham Tweddle and his sister Caroline, helped by their semiretired father, Gordon, who converted to organic in 1998.

While all Soil Association certified farms adhere to extremely high standards of animal welfare, the Tweddles were particularly praised for the large amount of time spent with their animals to ensure any potential problems are spotted early.

The 190 Dairy Shorthorn cows supply the milk for more than 4,000 doorstep deliveries, employing 36 people, across North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and the North-East.

Milk and other products are delivered overnight by Acorn delivery vans three times a week. The milk is supplied in glass bottles, which saves 168 tonnes of plastic going to landfill each year.

They also supply 120 schools, about 200 restaurants, farm shops and delis, and sell to Waitrose in Newcastle and Hexham, and Morrisons’ stores from Northumberland to Yorkshire.

An online ordering service also features a selection of groceries, including local organic eggs and bread and Acorn also supplies Riverford, Goosemoore and Organic Pantry box schemes.

Graham Tweddle said: “The majority of organic farming is centred in the South-West and we are delighted to have done so well against some massively strong opposition.”

The family has also been recognised for its commitment to biodiversity and energy conservation. The farm has more than 70 bird species, and a 16-acre reversion meadow forms part of their stewardship scheme. Ponds offer more habitats for wildlife.

The farm’s milking parlour is fitted with solar panels and a smart energy system generates hot water for the parlour wash-out. It also hopes to have its own wind turbine to supply the farm’s energy needs.

Miss Tweddle said: “Sharing the benefits of organic milk with our customers through farm news snippets every week is something we can offer along with a great tasting, pure milk. There is no doubt organic dairy farming benefits all – consumers, wildlife and cows.”