THE Wensleydale Creamery has celebrated the 20th anniversary of the formation of its dedicated Milk Producer Group – and is now looking for more members.

The Hawes-based creamery sources milk from more than 40 local farms and contributes more than £12million to the local economy through milk payments, wages and purchases.

David Hartley, managing director, said the anniversary was a significant landmark. He said: "We want to say a big thank you to all of our supplying farmers for their high quality milk, which is at the heart of our truly special cheese.

"Our family of farmers is integral to the production of our award-winning cheeses, yoghurts and butter, and it’s vital that we support them to ensure a sustainable milk future for the Yorkshire Dales."

Matthew Bell, chairman of The Wensleydale Milk Producer Group, said: "I cannot stress enough the importance and value of The Wensleydale Creamery to our local and deeply rural Dales economy. Our industry is facing tough issues and we need to work together throughout the supply chain to ensure a viable future for us all.

"It’s a really competitive market out there for the dairy industry. We need to continue to work hand in hand to ensure that we deliver the milk that’s needed to supply the creamery, as it aspires to grow over the next 20 years."

The creamery is going from strength to strength and looks forward to a strong start to 2017 following a £5million investment in its new dairy and cheese-making facilities.

The business is enjoying year-on-year growth in the UK and internationally, and had its busiest festive period ever.

The anniversary was celebrated by a four-course dinner held in Calvert’s Restaurant at the creamery's visitor centre, with farmers from the producer group and milk tanker drivers.

Mr Bell said: "It was fantastic for us all to come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the formation of the milk producer group."

The creamery is home to the famous Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, which is protected with European Protected Food Name status, and is actively looking for more Yorkshire farmers to join its Milk Producer Group.