Decisions: Tim Mead

CEO of the organic dairy Yeo Valley on his best decisions - and his regrets

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My best decision ...

... was marrying my wife. When I moved back to take over the farm, I commuted backwards and forwards to London at the weekends for a year before she joined me. My wife is incredibly supportive. She helps out with the business - running the tea shop among other things - but we also have four children, so that keeps her busy. It's important to marry someone you love and want to spend the rest of your life with - otherwise you build up your business and someone else walks off with half of it.

Another very important decision was in 1994 when the Milk Marketing Board - which dairy farmers had to sell their milk to - was disbanded. This meant that farmers had to find people to buy their milk, so we helped a group of organic farmers to set up the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo). This undoubtedly helped facilitate the growth of the organic milk market to the size it is today. In 1994 there were only five million litres of organic milk produced a year - now there are more than 400 million.

My worst decision ...

... I can be impulsive about things. We bought some farmland on top of the Mendip Hills in 1998. When you buy land, you always try to buy really good land - the depth of the soil and the type of soil are very important. It was just in the right place at the right time and there was no telling me I shouldn't. But it turned out the land wasn't in a great state and it's taken us quite a lot of time to build up the fertility.

We also bought an ice cream factory we shouldn't have. It was in Bovey Tracey, Devon and I bought it from the receiver because I thought it was a good deal. Eight weeks later we bought another factory which was closer and 10 times better, so we had to rent the first one out for storage until we could sell it.

I also slightly regret not going to university. I didn't work hard at school; when you grow up on a farm there are always distractions. You go to school and you're thinking about the JCB that's arriving that day, or wondering if that cow has calved. Meanwhile, you forget to listen to the chap who's trying to teach you calculus.

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