Tributes to a dairy farming adventurer

Longley Farm's Joseph Dickinson, OBE receives a lifetime achievement award
Longley Farm's Joseph Dickinson, OBE receives a lifetime achievement award
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He is one of Yorkshire’s most famous farming sons, with a career that has spanned more than six decades and brought employment and prosperity to the region.

This week Longley Farm’s Joseph Dickinson OBE was honoured by friends, colleagues and family at a special presentation to celebrate his extraordinary contribution to British dairy farming.

Ninety-year-old Mr Dickinson, who is one of the original founders of Longley Farm – the well-known and highly respected Yorkshire dairy – received an engraved glass water jug to mark his achievements.

His son Jimmy Dickinson, who now runs the business, said: “From some 30 acres of rough land bequeathed from Great Uncle Jonas Hinchliffe, my father laid the foundations of a thriving international business and gave so much to the farming industry – it has been an inspirational journey.”

The Dickinson family have been at the heart of the farming and dairy landscape in Holmfirth since he and brother, Edgar Dickinson MBE, founded Longley Farm in 1948.

The business is now a household name, having grown way beyond Yorkshire, with farms across the world – and an international reputation to match.

Born in 1921, Mr Dickinson volunteered to join the navy in 1940, with his first experience fire fighting during the blitz at Devenport Dockyard.

He saw service in both the Atlantic and Pacific and finished the war as the senior engineering officer on board HMS Lothian.

After demobilisation in 1946, post-war Britain offered few openings and after a couple of years working as an agricultural contractor, he and his brother Edgar inherited the 30-acre Longley Farm, on the edge of the moors – at a 1,000ft altitude – and he very quickly saw the potential for silage to replace hay in a difficult upland climate.

It was these progressive instincts and his engineering background that saw him appointed to the local Ministry War Ag (MAFF) committee.

In the 1950s – and now a pioneer in dairy farming at altitude, silage making and zero grazing – he became a member of the Grassland Society.

Today, perhaps best known for his interest in dairy products, he’s also a very serious farmer and has won several awards for his enlightened ideas, including an OBE for Services to Agriculture.

In his time at Longley Farm he pioneered many industry firsts: offering the region’s first pasteurised milk and setting up one of the first outlets selling fresh cream.

In 1954, when rationing ended, Longley was among the first to return to the production of cream and in 1973 was the first dairy in Europe to make cottage cheese on a commercial scale – and the first to sell it to the French.

Alastair Alton, chairman of farming group Yorkshire Agricultural Adventurers based at Askham Bryan Agricultural College said Mr Dickinson had been one of its longest serving members and thoroughly deserved the award.

“We call ourselves the ‘Agricultural Adventurers’ and there is no one that displays as much adventurous agricultural spirit as Joseph,” he said.

“It’s an absolute honour to be able to help mark his contribution to Yorkshire farming and the dairy industry as a whole.

“Joseph was one of the early members of the Yorkshire Agricultural Adventurers and has always been an avid supporter – he still comes regularly to meetings – and he has been instrumental in promoting quality farming practices.

“He’s given a lifetime to agriculture and there are many people who will thank him for that.”

mark.casci@ypn.co.uk