THE JOURNAL, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2002

  Battle to get our local food  
on local

tables...

BY MATHEW MARTIN
mgm@nqmids.co.uk

BRITISH food producers and farmers are fighting back after what must rank as one ! of the most disastrous decades in memory.
The shocking arrival of BSE followed by the foot and mouth disaster - and other food scares too numerous to mention - have all taken their toll.
In recent years people have been leaving the farming industry in numbers not seen since the days of enclosure and the industrial revolution. Consumer confidence has plummeted and more and more of our food is imported from abroad.
However, a new spirit of optimism and a formidable fighting spirit looks set to restore the fortunes of British farming and secure the future of the countryside.

 
 

One visible sign of this fledgling renaissance is the mushrooming phenomenon of farmers' markets. These give consumers the chance to buy their food directly from the producer and also give the farmer an opportunity to learn more about their 'customers' and cut out the middleman.
A monthly market in Bourton, begun earlier this year, has proved a hit and Stow is set to revive its ancient market charter with more than 30 farmers expected in the square next month.
As well as these monthly events a number of new shops are offering locally sourced, traceable and fresh food. It is one year since Jim and Helen Cherry opened their farm fresh shop in Long Compton and they report that business is booming.
Customers can take their pick from fresh veg grown in Ebrington, trout smoked in Donnington, flour milled in the Wychwoods, lamb from the field behind the shop and a whole host of other staples and delicacies all bought direct from the producer.
This trend for traceable locally produced food was given a huge boost on Sunday as Moreton Show held its first ever food fair.
Dozens of farmers and food producers from across the region turned out to compete for the National Small Producers awards. Among the hundreds of entries were such mouth watering delicacies as Damson and Sloe Gin Ice Cream. The day, of course, also included a farmers market.
The success in restoring the reputation of the British food industry and finding new ways of getting food to the dinner table is down to the quiet industry and imagination of individual farmers.
 

 

However, some credit most also go to a number of high profile campaigners who have been tirelessly banging the drum for British farming.
  Among these crusaders is Susanne Austin, the founder of the Cotswolds Food Group. "I describe myself as an advocate of British produce and the prosperity of rural Britain," she said. "We are told that global trading is the future of food production and more and more food is being imported. Everyone seems to think that somewhere else is going to produce food for them and one day that 'somewhere else' may not be there. What then? During the recent fuel crisis it only took two weeks for signs of a food shortage to appear.
"We must support our farmers they do an amazing job on our behalf and our future could depend on it."
The productivity of local farmers is set to celebrated by Miss Austin with a Harvest Banquet next month. More than 100 guests will have the chance to savour all that is best of locally produced food.

Food for thought as
founder of the Cotswolds
Food Group
Susanne Austin
Picture Ian Cameron
dc1927-b

 
 

The sumptuous feast has already attracted guests such as Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, farmer and broadcaster Robin Page and rural campaigner Lord Plumb of Coleshill.
"The evening will be an expression of what food should be about," said Miss Austin. "Sitting round a table eating, drinking, laughing and sharing. And most importantly giving thanks for what we have and the people who produce it." Tickets for the black tie event at the Wyck Hill House Hotel on October 25 are 65. To find out more, and for information about the Cotswold Food Group, call 01865 742793.

 
               
Courtesy of The Cotswold Journal
           

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Copyright Susanne Austin 2005/6