Look to your own backyard  
for all your needs

IN an era of global trade, Susanne Austin launched The Cotswold Food Group to support local producers by encouraging people to buy local products. She talked to Gerry Barnett about her vision and of her need for help

  "This year I would be inclined to fill my freezer from local PYO's, rekindling the art of blanching, while embracing or polishing up on pickling and storing as it is always an ability we can keep in reserve should we need it," she said.
"In order to buy our food we first need to secure its supply. 'Global Trading' we are told is the answer - what then of the possibility of the likes of another fuel crisis, drought or failed GM crop? We leave ourselves vulnerable if we do not secure local produce as we may look for it in the future and it will not be there. We should value our producers,
I am constantly being asked why I do what I do and what keeps me going, the answer to which I am sure will be the same, not only for me, but also for others - for the love of my country and the desire to secure local food production, encourage and embrace local communities with economics that create prosperity for all," she said.
It was with a heavy heart, she said, that she listened to those with little or no relation to what she termed 'real life' and how much things were taken for granted. Someone else would pick up the litter, grow and harvest food, run the shows.
Miss Austin explained: "In 1999 1 launched The Cotswold Food Group in order to support our region and its producers and continue to do so with many others who run farmers markets, festivals and shows. The workload is
enormous and expensive. It has such rewards when we see the results of our labours in front of us, people sharing, laughing, buying, selling, representing community at its best.
"Sometimes we forget to acknowledge that behind the scenes an awful lot of work has been undertaken in order to bring it to this stage. "We have just seen reports of beehives being stolen due to the shortage of honey we are experiencing as the ban on Chinese honey, which provided in excess of 45 per cent of imported honey, takes hold.
"Add this to problems in the supply chain connected to BSE, foot and mouth and the closure of local abattoirs. We also see signs of shortages, such as cocoa and coffee, in other countries, making me think that we may in time change the saying 'not in my back yard' to '1 wish I had some in my back yard.'"
She said that she was recently at a farm where she learned of the closure of a well-known hamper company, of the loss of a regional food policy officer with the Cotswold AONB Partnership, following on from which the talk turned to the loss of a herd near Winchcombe during the foot and mouth crisis and of businesses lost as a result of the disease.
  understanding that good quality takes much effort to produce and therefore deserves recognition of its value. "Miss Austin said The Cotswold Food Group was dedicated to securing local food and needed support. Coming up this year were Country Cooking Demonstrations at Lodge Park, Aldsworth, on Wednesday, June
26, September 25 and November 27 with a Festive Food Fair from November 22 to 24. A second harvest banquet was planned for October 25 at Wyck Hill House, Stow, Cotswold Food and Drink Awards was to be launched, and a Country Food Show Area at Cirencester Park on July 6 and 7.
Miss Austin warned: "1 can no longer go it alone. I need the support of my region. Agriculture has lost many workers, producers, expertise and the like, which begs the question: Who will provide, who will pick up the litter, who will......? if we have
all gone."
Anyone who would like to support future events can contact Miss Austin on 01865 742793.