Farmers Weekly Sustainable Farmer of the Year 2014: Rich Clothier

Rich Clothier
Wyke Farms, Somerset

Rich Clothier and his family are not simply pioneering sustainable cheese production at Wyke Farms, they are delivering learning for the whole food and farming industry.

The Clothier family have been producing milk and cheese in Somerset since 1861. Today, five Clothiers sit on the family board of Wyke Farms, the largest independent cheesemaker and milk processor in the UK.

“This is a hugely impressive business with a tight-knit family taking on the legacy of their grandmother to extraordinary heights. Their green plans will have positive repercussions way beyond Wyke Farms.”
Caroline Drummond CEO, Leaf, and independent judge

At the heart of this multimillion-pound food business is a dairy farm, running 1,000 Friesians plus followers on about 600ha near Bruton in Somerset. The farm provides 8% of the milk used to produce 14,000t of cheese a year – the rest comes from 150 dairy farming businesses, with many supplying Wyke for more than 30 years.

Milk and energy are the major costs in this business and were the key drivers of the family’s ambitious “100% green” sustainability plan, says managing director Rich Clothier.

“The business needed to be robust for the future and it became clear that using our waste would not only cut our costs but have a positive impact on the environment and stabilise supplies of energy and water.”

The family’s ambitious 100% green plan started five years ago and includes the installation of a £10m biogas plant to convert 75,000t of slurry into energy, a water reusage plant, solar panels on two farm buildings and three electric cars.

Farm Facts

  • Clothier family business since 1861
  • 607ha (1,500 acres)
  • 1,000 dairy cows plus followers
  • Produce 14,000t cheese a year
  • 100% self-sufficient in electricity

Winning Ways

  • 100% sustainable vision well on track
  • Outstanding marketeers (look out for the TV ads)
  • Strong family team
  • Constantly striving to do better
    Supporting 150 other dairy farmers

Three biogas digesters, which have been sited carefully to avoid spoiling the beautiful views, have a capacity of 4,600cu m each. They take all of the farm’s own cattle slurry, as well as pig slurry from a neighbouring unit. The methane gas is piped to a generator to be converted into electricity and heat for the dairy and cheese factory. Any excess is sold to the grid.

Wyke Farms is a crucial pioneer for the whole farming industry. It has built a green energy visitor centre next to the biogas plant to share all its learning with other farms, retailers, businesses, schools and the local community.

The digestate from the biogas plant, which is rich in N, P and K, goes back on to its fields as fertiliser, explains Roger, who, with his brother David, runs the farming side of the business. “It’s not only saving us £50,000-60,000/year in organic N but it’s easy to handle and doesn’t smell.”

They have invested in storage for the biogas by-product so that the fertiliser is available when needed and are also working with local farmers and advisers to determine when and how to use the digestate most effectively.

Wyke Farms is now self-sufficient in electricity – a saving of £30,000/month. It is the first UK national cheddar brand to achieve this. The second phase of the AD project will ensure Wyke is also self-sufficient in gas.

A new water reusage plant will save up to 850,000m litres/day which, combined with the AD plant, enables the business to cut total energy and water bills by £2m/year.


Kevin and Julie BatemanKevin and Julie Bateman
Martinsfield Farm, Devon

You could not find a more dedicated and hard-working couple. Despite a National Trust tenancy rule that they can only farm part-time, they are creating a thriving, organic sheep business on 220ha and delivering huge biodiversity and local community benefits.

Lyndon and Thomas EdwardsLyndon and Thomas Edwards
Sevendale Farm, Monmouthshire

Strong organic ideals drive Lyndon’s successful mixed, dairy and arable 240ha unit. He’s a champion of local food and is actively encouraging nearby residents to grow their own food on land he has put aside for them.

Sponsor’s message

Firestone“The commitment and innovations that the winner, and finalists, of this new Award demonstrate in protecting their natural resources as well as creating a sustainable business model is inspiring for all.”
Barry Coleman, Firestone product manager