Holme Valley-based family-run dairy business Longley Farm, which produces best-selling cottage cheese and yoghurts, is marking 75 years of trade.
Since launching in 1948, with just 30 acres and 10 cows on land in Holmfirth, the company now employs 120 staff and is a proud multi-national organisation, with a small farm in Uruguay and a successful operation in Australia, which supplies the Far East.
In a competitive market, where huge companies compete for fridge space, the instantly recognisable and familiar branding remains a firm favourite for many.
Longley Farm might be considered small when vying against the big boys of retail, but it is a perfectly formed, truly home-grown, yet international company. It also takes milk from around 30 other British dairy farms, much of it from Jersey cows, needed for its high protein content.
Items such as cottage cheese and certain flavours of yoghurt remain best-sellers in supermarkets and corner shops and its products are a firm-favourite at the Windsor Farm Shop, often frequented by the Royals.
The farm has pioneered many industry ‘firsts’ including the region’s first pasteurised milk and in 1954, when rationing ended, Longley Farm was one of the first to return to making cream, with sales “sky-rocketing” after a 15-year hiatus.
They put up the first commercial wind power turbine generator in the country in 1986 in Holmfirth. The farm also became the first dairy in Europe to produce cottage cheese on a commercial scale in 1973.
Chief executive Jimmy Dickinson, whose father Joseph and Uncle Edgar Julian co-founded the farm, remains at the helm, and is ‘hands on’ when it comes to overseeing the daily operation.
He said: “Not many businesses today make 75 years and we are already planning for the next 25 and beyond. There has only been two generations of our family running Longley Farm. I was born into it, so my entire life has been involved with it.
“Farming and agriculture go way back in the family and we’ve always had a small farm going way back.”
Jimmy’s father’s parents started a milking business before the Second World War. They sold Tuberculosis Tested milk, known as TT Milk.
Jimmy (above) said: “After the Second World War, my father Joseph came out as a Royal Navy engineering officer and my Uncle Edgar Julian carried on in engineering in Huddersfield.
“One thing which stuck with him was seeing cottage cheese for the first time. He was in the Pacific Campaign on a Navy ship and the British sailors had very little to eat, just minimal rations.
“They would see American ships and communicate with US troops and saw they had all sorts to eat and drink, like fresh orange juice and cottage cheese.”
Then their great uncle Jonas Hinchliffe died and left the farm to his father and uncle. “He left them 30 acres and 10 cows,” said Jimmy. “They started farming by milking cows and had pigs and sheep and built it up. They were progressive and were quick into using silage, as it didn’t really exist then. They were into innovations such as ploughing.”
By 1948 they were working differently to other farms. Jimmy said: “They were trailblazers, if you like. They were combining engineering and farming to create pasteurised milk. Even after the war, rationing did not stop until 1954, when they started making cream.
“Fresh cream had not been on the market since 1939 and demand was high as people hadn’t eaten it for 15 years. They couldn’t get enough of it.
“Because they had the technology they knew how to make pasteurised cream, due to the engineering background, so sales naturally sky-rocketed.”
Longley farm became the first in the UK to make cottage cheese on a commercial scale, inspired by the experience of Joseph, in the middle of the Pacific, on the ships.
Joseph later visited the US in 1964 and he saw how Americans were turning cottage cheese into a best-seller. Early attempts saw him use a tin bath, before a small vat stirred with clean hay rakes.
Cottage cheese was first made in 1972 to Jimmy’s father’s recipe and it became the standard recipe in the UK for cottage cheese. By 1973 it was being sold on a commercial scale.
Jimmy said: “There was a time in the early days when anyone making cottage cheese in this country had come via Longley Farm.
“Cottage cheese is a best seller; plain or plain fat free is popular with bodybuilders as it’s pure protein and has no additives, apart from salt.
“We did not invent yoghurt as such but we were very early into the yoghurt scene at the back end of the 1960s.
“The fruit we use for the yoghurts is carefully selected and we get as much of it from the UK as we can.”
Longley Farm celebrated 75 years of trade with a party for staff, family and friends of the Longley, where long service awards were presented.
Recent accolades include success at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards, with a raft of awards including Gold Awards for cottage cheese and chives, natural yoghurt, soured cream, Jersey extra rich cream and for four yoghurts – banana, blackcurrant, raspberry and lemon.
And at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show, Longley Farm secured more awards including the esteemed David Hartley Supreme Champion Dairy Product Trophy for its Blackcurrant yoghurt.
As Longley Farm celebrates its anniversary, meticulous planning is already underway to ensure a successful future and Jimmy said: “We are all in it together, from people here at the farm to the Jersey milk suppliers, to the lorry drivers and many others including those in Australia and Uruguay.
“We are one off kind of a company I think. It’s the honesty and the quality of our products which make it a success.”