Neil Kennedy took over from Nicholas Saphir as Chairman of Omsco in April 2020. Prior to then, he held the role of non-executive director since June 2016, following 37 years of experience in senior positions across the food industry.
Having begun his career at Kellogg's in 1981, Neil moved into the dairy sector in 1987 with Unigate, where he spent well over a decade, culminating in the role of Managing Director of St. Ivel spreads.
Other most notable roles leading up to his appointments with Omsco include Managing Director of The Cheese Company, Chairman of Dairy UK, and CEO of Milk Link.
In 2013, he was also presented with the prestigious Dairy Industry Award for outstanding contribution towards the development of the British dairy market.
Neil possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in leading change, and is held in high esteem across the industry, which is demonstrable through his other current appointments of Non-Executive Director of Belton Cheese and Ornua UK, and Chairman of Crediton Dairy Ltd.
Bruce Carlisle is the longest serving Board member of Omsco and brings a wealth of practical knowledge from a dairy farming prospective. Bruce, who is located in Pembrokeshire, runs a 100-cow Shorthorn based herd and farms 320 acres of grassland, some of which is managed under a stewardship scheme. He believes the most efficient way to manage his herd, is using an extended grazing system and aims to achieve self-sufficiency. However, he is very aware of how different farming systems work for different farms, and feels the key is to be adaptable to a changing business environment.
Having converted to organic dairying in 1987, Bruce offers a wide range of experience in both organic dairy and organic horticultural enterprises, and has worked for many years marketing his own produce for sale in the wholesale markets. He has been actively involved with negotiating contracts with large buyers of organic products and is very clear on the influence and challenges of the world markets.
Bruce represents the farmer members of Omsco and believes as a co-operative, their success has been due to the diverse range of strengths offered by their members allowing them to be commercial and adaptable to their markets, whilst remaining respectful to the ethos of the co-operative.
Glyn, together with his wife Eira, runs a 430 acre organic farm in South West Wales, in addition to the highly successful Princes Gate Spring Water business which he owns and manages with his brother David.
Employing excellent farm staff, has given Glyn the ability to oversee the management of the dairy herd from his computer, whilst focusing on the daily management of the water business.
The 200-cow herd averages 6,700 litres/cow; an impressive achievement. The farm is also credited with supplying the Omsco premium pool for USA export. The farm and water business are neighbours and so aim to work together to maximize sustainability. Wind turbines and solar panels have recently been installed to supply the businesses with environmentally friendly power.
Princes Gate Spring Water was a farm diversification in 1991, and has grown beyond expectations; now employing 65 people from the area. Glyn admits it has been a learning curve, but had given him an incredible insight into quality control and systems, health and safety management, operations, finance and marketing.
Glyn believes all businesses should strive for excellence; always aim to be better. Quality is key to the long term success of any business. He is proud to be part of Omsco and their ambition and innovative ways in seeking new business for their organic milk
Graham, together with his father, wife and three daughters, farms almost 400 acres at Highdown Farm; located on the Duchy of Cornwall Bradninch estate near Exeter in Devon.
Highdown Farm has been organic since 1999 and currently has a 180 cow dairy herd, consisting of Friesian, Ayrshire and Jersey breeds, and managed on a low cost spring calving system. The farm also has a highly successful holiday cottage business, orchard and woodland.
The farm is managed with an impressive range of skills; daughter Laura does most of the milking, having returned home with a degree from Nottingham in Human Nutrition and working in New Zealand. Daughter Emily does the calf rearing and some of the Tractor work after she returned home after completing a business studies course. Graham’s father, who is in his late 80s, still checks stock and keeps an eye on the farm whilst third daughter, Becca, is the farm Vet and works for Mole care vets.
The family are all deeply involved in the Young Farmers with all 3 daughters having an active role. Graham is also Chair of the advisory for Culm Valley; currently boasting over 90 members and are the home of the original Calf club that started the YFC movement . Culm Valley has an annual show and sale and Graham is heavily involved with sourcing stock and helping members to rear and show animals.
Bertie has a long established and highly respected career in rural management, having worked for Savills for many years in addition to managing the Duchy of Cornwall Estates. He currently operates his own Consultancy business and is a trustee to several organisations who benefit from Bertie’s skills in property management and land management; over 50,000 acres throughout the UK. Bertie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in strategic management, corporate best practice and business structure. Bertie is also currently involved in helping an organization in its transition from the Government sector into the private and commercial business environment. He has worked with Omsco from its establishment in 2005, having represented one of the founding members, and is now Chairman of the Remuneration Committee and is a great asset to the team.
Richard has been Managing Director of Omsco since 2015, prior to that he was the Chief Operating Officer and has been instrumental in the growth of the business from a £25m co-operative to the £100m plus business it is today.
During his time at Omsco, Richard has developed the business from an organic milk co-operative with annual sales of 70m litres of raw milk to the UK processing industry, to a business supplying 250m litres of UK organic dairy products across the world.
Omsco is the UK’s main supplier of organic milk and the second largest dedicated organic milk pool in the world, with over 200 farmer-owner members and with core customers in the UK, Europe and the USA. Richard is now focused on the next phase of growth for Omsco as they look to gain a greater share of the global market and capitalise on the demand for organic ingredients for infant formula.
Richard is passionate about the organic dairy industry, and has been pivotal in the co-operative building partnerships with a range of processors overseas, plus an alliance with Organic Valley in the USA – the world’s largest dedicated organic milk pool.
As a result, Omsco has developed a global spread of customers for a broad range of specialist organic dairy powders, is the UK’s largest organic cheese producer and the UK’s only source of organic whey.
Simon is one of the founding members of Omsco and as such offers an invaluable insight into the organic dairy business. He served as Chairman for 8 years, before handing over to the current Chairman Nicholas Saphir. Simon has practiced organic farming for over 25 years and the farm currently totals 1400 acres. Located near Tetbury, Gloucestershire the farm consists of a 340-cow Friesian herd in addition to dairy beef and arable enterprises. And to add to his commitment to organic farming, Simon is also chairman of the Organic Livestock Marketing Co-operative.
He also runs a property management business, dealing with commercial properties in London and the South of England. He specializes in financing and property investment management and brings this financial knowledge and experience to the Omsco team.
Simon is incredibly optimistic about the future of organic dairying in the UK, and plans to expand his herd in the future. He is excited by the new markets being supplied by Omsco and looks forward to a successful future with the co-operative.
In addition to all this, Simon finds time for his passion; polo and serves as Chairman to the Development Committee for Young Players, is a Steward of the National Association and has served on the Executive Committee of the Federation of International Polo.
Tim Downes, together with wife Louise and Tim’s parents, John and Chris, farm almost 700 acres in Longnor, Shropshire. The farm is fully organic, comprising of 300 dairy cows plus followers and Aberdeen Angus cross cattle for finishing. Milk is sold to Omsco's Premium pool for export and the beef supplies the Waitrose Premium market.
Having managed the farm in a low cost, extended grazing system it seemed logical to convert to organic in 2000, when it was clear to Tim that this market was growing and offered his business more opportunity for long term profitability. The Downes are now an established, well respected and fully committed organic farming family.
Tim is also involved in research and development of grassland management, most recently in his work with the Woodland Trust and Harper Adams. Two projects are underway; a browsing trial which aims to assess the impact of trees on dry matter produced per hectare, how soil is utilised, and the general synergy of growing trees in a grazing area – such as changes in flooding, droughts etc. The second trial makes use of willow varieties in the grazing system and aims to monitor the benefits to cows from consuming the leaves which contain salicylic acid, which is basically a mild aspirin. It is predicted that the willow will offer some preventative therapies to the animals and increase overall health. Milk samples will be analysed over 3 years.
Lyndon Edwards is deputy chairman of Omsco, as well as being a passionate dairyman, overseeing the operation of Severndale Farm, a 750-acre organic dairy enterprise, on the Gloucestershire/ Monmouthshire border with his son Thomas.
Lyndon is a pioneer for the UK dairy industry, with a career spanning over 30-years. He has held many senior industry positions and chairmanships for organisations such as Dairy UK Farmer’s Forum, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare Committee, Dairy UK, the Dairy Council and the Chepstow Agricultural Society. He is also current chairman for the Action Group for Johne’s.
As a previous winner of the Dairy Ambassador of the Year ‘Cream Award’, Lyndon was also awarded the 2018 Dairy UK Award for outstanding achievement within the dairy industry.
In his role as deputy chairman of Omsco, he holds special responsibility for the membership and technical divisions and chairs the cooperative’s technical committee meetings.
Lyndon’s accomplishments have only been possible as a result of the tireless work he commits to education and promotion of sustainable agriculture, alongside the cooperative.
Miles Saunders is a long-standing member of Omsco and has been a part of the cooperative since it was founded 22 years ago.
Having joined the board in 2014, Miles has continued to work closely with members to support their activities on farm and has played a key part in developing European export markets, supporting the future of the wider organic dairy industry.
A fourth-generation dairy farmer, Miles has been farming organically since the 1980’s and now runs a highly successful 526-hectare farm on the outskirts of Farringdon in Oxfordshire, alongside his family.
The farm comprises a herd of 400 organic dairy cows, over 130 hectares of cereals, and 100 hectares of permanent pasture and grass leys.
In 2014, Miles was successful in securing the prize for Farming Partnership of the Year at the prestigious British Farming Awards for his on-going work with the cooperative.
Ross Paton has been farming 350 hectares in partnership with his sister, Lee, on the Solway coast, near Dumfries since 1986, and has been an Omsco board member since 2018.
He has extensive experience of organic dairying and is a board member of the Scottish Organic Milk Producers as well as serving on the Scottish Organic Forum.
Ross’ farm has been fully organic since 2001 and consists of a 180-cow dairy herd, 50 hectares of cereals and up to 100 beef cattle. There is also 50 hectares of woodland which is sensitively managed for timber and leisure.
The herd was historically Holstein-Friesian, but in recent years has increasingly been crossed with dual-purpose breeds such as Montbelliarde and Swedish Red, to enhance health and hybrid vigor and also to ensure a valuable male calf.
Ross is a firm believer in the benefit of research and has co-operated with various organisations to gain knowledge and insight into new ways to improve farm efficiencies. In the past his business has participated in Johne’s work and environmental issues, including participation in AHDB’s Paraban project in 2013/14, and the Climate Change Focus Farms project.
In addition, Ross is committed to education and is involved in schemes that give schools and groups access to rural areas through participation in the Royal Highland Education Trust and the Inaugural Scottish Rural Leadership Programme.
Ross’ business is currently undergoing succession planning with Lee’s son, Callum, taking on the day-to-day running of the business. This gives him more time to concentrate on other things including the cohesion of the Scottish group of Omsco farmers.
In his role as an Omsco board member, he brings both practical and commercial insight, together with a wider outlook of future approaches for organic dairying.
To find out more about the initiatives mentioned, please follow the links below:
Amanda Grist joined Omsco in 2013, following a 12-year career in a range of finance positions, including two years as Financial Controller for Omsco before being promoted to Finance Director in 2015.
Amanda, who is a BSc (Hons) graduate from the University of Bristol, has a degree in Equine Science and a qualified Chartered Accountant.
Upon becoming qualified in 2004, Amanda gleaned a wealth of experience through numerous senior accountancy roles, providing strategic consultancy on farm accounts and audits, and was seconded to a six-month position of Finance Manager for a Wildlife Trust.
She eventually moved on to hold the title of Financial Controller for Booking Services International Limited (BSI), a £100m turnover company, during which time Amanda was involved in acquisitions and the sale of the company to multi-million-pound corporation Capita Plc.
Other notable highlights for Amanda include coming top in the country during her accountancy exams, and now, having the opportunity to work in the finance profession for the dairy sector – an industry which she has a real passion for.
In her spare time, Amanda enjoys running a dog training business for professional competitors and competing at the highest level of agility in this country with her own dogs.
Board Member and Chair of Membership Committee