From Roots to Fork – Encouraging the public to support our rural community

The food industry has grown vastly in the last century, but at this time it’s becoming increasingly difficult to track where food comes from and how it’s produced. Large chains sell food which is processed, excessively packaged and mostly, without demonstrating the source of where it comes from. Whilst there are still a number of producers and local sellers who are selling home-grown produce, it’s difficult to match the convenience and the price that stores like Tesco can offer.

Supermarkets vs. Farmer’s Markets
It was found in a survey by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs that over 77% of customers think it’s important to buy from British farmers but only 60% actively try to buy British produce and less than half would pay more for British food over imported goods. This suggests that whilst there seems to be an overwhelming attitude that it’s better to buy from local farmers, the reality is somewhat different.

Another issue is that labelling can be misleading in supermarkets. With claims being made such as ‘farmer’s market’ and ‘farm fresh’, customers could not be blamed for thinking they are making a choice to support their local farming community. Such marketing is designed to make customers feel like they’re making a good, natural choice.

In 2016 study, it was found that over half of the UK’s food is sourced from abroad and we’re becoming increasingly reliant on external sources. The mass demand for goods and the need to ship produce across the country and further afield is forcing farmers to use more of a factory approach and the ratio of customers buying local vs. imported goods does not meet their intentions to support British farmers.

The virtues of buying local
The value of selling goods which are grown and raised in a distinct region cannot be surpassed. It means the food is fresher with unique tastes dictated by the climate, terrain and history of the region. It celebrates the area you live in and allows for a cycle of seasonal produce, meaning farmers can sell the goods when they’re at their best. There are a number of farmers who are finding ways to work with and promote the concept of the ‘Roots to Fork’ ideology, whilst campaigns to protect England’s rural community are fighting for local produce to come to the forefront.

Farmers are now looking at ways to promote the value of using local produce and getting back in touch with the roots of food production. The idea of vegetables being dug up from a field, cooked nearby and served in the same area is a strangely refreshing, almost novel concept. It’s important to involve children in activities such as these to show them the importance of knowing where their food has come from as they will be a pioneering change in the future.

What are farmers doing to make a difference?
Driffield Agricultural Society offers educational days to children to teach them about agriculture and the importance of local farming. Chief Executive, David Tite, explains that there is still a huge gap in knowledge in regards to children knowing where their food comes from. They teach the children about the machinery and how some of it is specific to the land they’re on, as the East Riding of Yorkshire hosts a number of arable farmers. The children also get to meet and interact with the animals, experience things such as milking demonstrations and take part in a mock livestock auction.

Another farm in Swillington has a community allotment, where locals can come to the farm, grow their own produce and take it home for a small fee which goes towards the running of the farm. On their website, they sell ‘build your own meat boxes’ where customers can choose from a range of options, all sourced and prepared on the farm itself. They also offer activities for children and adults, taking them into the farm for a Wi-Fi-free rural experience, including off-grid dining, summer clubs, forest-inspired crafts and survival skills.

For fine dining, the Black Swan Inn have used their farming roots to establish an exclusive Michelin Star restaurant, boasting the freshest foods picked from their field-scale crops and two acres of growing beds. They produce seasonal dishes and cocktails and believes this allows them to forge a connection between field and table like no other. Their restaurant has now been awarded the 20th best restaurant in the UK. They have also been voted the best restaurant in the world by TripAdvisor. Of course, whilst it helps to have a Michelin Star chef working there, their focus on primarily using local produce from their farm shows that world-class food can be prepared with local ingredients, by local chefs.

These farmers and landowners are thinking off-grid to show the public the benefits of eating locally, supporting their local farmers and taking the time to appreciate the rural beauty around them.

If you want to use your farm to host your own rural experience or are looking for insurance in other areas of your agriculture business, call Tynedale Insurance on 01434 622014.