usanne Austin provides help, advice and marketing expertise to food
producers. The Cotswold Food Group, adds value to any business which
may need, for example, to estabtlish a market, brand a product or even
relocate to a new area.
|"Last year the fuel strike cut off
supplies and crippled the infrastructure of this country. Demand then
outstripped supply as the market moved in to crisis. But how does the
public imagine we would cope if the food we import more and more were to
The Foot and Mouth crisis was therefore
devastating for Susanne and her entire list of clients. It soon became
very clear that urgent help and advice was necessary to prevent many businesses
from failing. The ramifications of the outbreak were set to devastate
livelihoods and Susanne realised she had to take swift action for all concerned.
"I tried everywhere for help", explains
Susanne. "At times like this you call on all the information available. I tried
Government departments, enterprise agencies and helplines but only the FSB offered
interest-free financial help and solid, sound advice. I cannot praise them enough."
With so many links in the food industry and such
a responsibility for those who depended on her help, Susanne was in a
unique position to spread word of her gratitude for the FSB's advice.
"I have to be ready and willing to help my
clients at a moment's notice", she told TVN, "but those approached were
somewhat unwilling to put themselves out; it was very frustrating. The FSB, on the
other hand, acted immediately even though it was Good Friday: Their representative
arrived with a whole raft of measures to address the effects of Foot and Mouth."
Susanne is an optimist who has developed a 'never give
up' approach to life. She believes that today's food industry is being destroyed by
'ridiculous' legislation and bureaucracy.
"Food should be measured by its taste, smell,
texture and traceability. Instead, we find rubbery, mass-produced 'grog' on the shelves.
People are so used to it they have forgotten what 'real food' tastes like.
"We need to re-educate our palates,
re-establish our own local brands and turn around an industry which is now paying the
price of commercialism.
"We have taken away the decision-making and expertise from the food producer who really cares about his or her product
and filled the gap with rules and regulations which have damaged whole communities.
"One of my group has been producing
cheese all his working life. He now estimates that, in order to bring himself in to
line with EEC regulations, he will have to spend £250,000. He now feels as it is easier
to shut the business down than continue with it why should he bother? There, is a
quality food producer, with a unique and delicious product, who is lost to us
It is not possible to speak to Susanne
without being totally impressed by the commitment she shows to her cause. She is a
breath of fresh air to an industry which is struggling to catch its breath.
In order to continue her work in
supporting her clients, she has started to retail from shared premises in Oxford and
has even taken a part-time job to secure an income.
"The recent F&M crisis was a
big 'eye opener' and has, thankfully, led to an examination of how we produce food in
this country," she says. " I'm pleased that recent reports have indicated
the public is moving towards purchasing less intensively farmed and organic produce, but there is still a long way
We would have no local suppliers to
fall back on".
Susanne believes that Farmers' Markets have proved invaluable for
creating a new and progressive way forward.
"We must not underestimate
how valuable these town markets are going to be in reviving our pride
and expertise in British food production. The produce is fresher, grown
and produced locally, often free of colourings and preservatives and
sold by those who know and understand the background of each item.
People are flocking to these markets and spending time getting to know
each other whilst they shop.
"Farmers' Market launched in the UK some 7 years ago struggled to
attract stallholders. However, producers are now on waiting lists-such
is the demand-the market places are now thriving and the consumers love
Susanne also believes that people will be healthier if they eat better
"We are walking chemical compounds adding more chemicals to our body
every day. Who wants to eat preservatives and hormones? Making a change,
I hope, will lead to a reduction in allergies, cancer and disease such
as chronic fatigue which seems to be on the increase."
Susanne is an incredibly energetic campaigner whose motto is 'Buy Local,
Buy Regional, Buy British'. She is currently looking for all levels of
sponsorship to help support producers. As a thank you to the FSB for its
help she will be donating a raffle prize (a hamper of quality foods) to
the AGM in November.
For more information contact Susanne on 01865
742793. For details of Farmers Markets in your area call 08702 414762