In November, staff from the Eat Somerset project participated in a Friends of the Earth 'Shop Local First' conference. Sustain project manager Kath Dalmeny facilitated the event and Eat Somerset project officer Alison Belshaw ran a workshop to discuss how local shops can be encouraged to use more locally produced food.
A number of other events are being organised over the next few months. On 16 January a Sustainable Packaging Workshop was held at the Somerset Food Links offices. A meeting with interested suppliers and Booker was held on 21 January in Taunton. A large scale Meet the Buyers event is planned for 3 April in Bristol. A workshop is also planned to map local food distribution in the area (date to be confirmed) and support will be given to taster sessions being organised by South West Food and Drink on public sector food procurement.
A directory of local food producers in the area has been compiled and is available on the Sustain website. Details of the directory have been emailed to a wide range of contacts and copies have also been sent out to interested retailers and caterers.
Eat Somerset project officer Kate Bowie went on maternity leave at the end of August 2007. Alison Belshaw started as Eat Somerset project officer in September 2007.
Alison has produced a directory of over 80 local food producers interested in supplying the retail and / or catering sectors in Bath, Bristol and Somerset (Download directory as 3100kb PDF). This shows the variety of local produce available and aims to encourage local retailers to contact producers direct. [Note added in 2008: This paper directory has now been updated and made available as a searchable directory online, see: https://www.sustainweb.org/esdirectory/]
A similar idea to compile a directory for producers listing retailers and caterers in the area that want to source local produce is being followed up.
Meet the Buyers / Suppliers event
A successful event was held at the end of July 2007 in Bath. Some good links were made between suppliers and retailers and an exciting new trading link was made between Pieminister (Bristol based shop producing pies) and Kesbury, a butcher's based in Glastonbury. Another Meet the Buyers event is planned for early 2008 in Bristol and may also incorporate some sessions for producers on how to work together to bid for public sector contracts.
Project review and 'next steps'
A meeting in October between Sustain project line manager Kath Dalmeny, Eat Somerset project officer Alison Belshaw and Nicky Saunter from Somerset Food Links was held to agree the next stages of the project. These include:
- Holding a Meet the Buyers event in Bristol in early 2008;
- Running a training event on packaging in January 2008;
- Continuing to work with retail outlets to get local food into more stores and distribute the directory widely;
- Working with Booker and interested producers;
- Starting to write up case studies to include Pieminister, Gundenhams Dairy, Booker, and others;
- Where capacity allows, supporting developments for public sector procurement in Bristol.
In May, project officer Kate Bowie contacted all independent retailers in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES). Out of a total of 39 stores 13 expressed an interest in buying more local food. All stores stock some local produce already, and all expressed an interest in attending a “meet-the-suppliers” event.
Kate has also met with staff from the Radstock Cooperative Society, Jones Convenience Stores and Smiles. Representatives from all three operations hope to attend the meet-the-suppliers event, while acknowledging that not all of the producers attending the event will have the capacity to trade with them. The event will take place on 31 July. Producers will be able to offer product samples and discuss possible new trading arrangements.
Overview of the local food system
Work to gain an overview of the local food system continues with samples of key players (butchers, bakers, dairies, distributors, wholesalers, etc.) being identified and interviewed. It is hoped that some of these businesses will be keen to be involved in the project, especially in terms of distribution.
Independent retailers in the area between Taunton, Bridgwater, Watchet and Wiveliscombe have been contacted and introduced to the Eat Somerset project. Seven have expressed an interest in being involved. Kate Bowie from Eat Somerset and Nicky Saunter from Somerset Food Link visited these stores to find out where they buy their goods; to provide them with the product list from Source (a co-operative producer group based near Taunton); and to discuss next steps.
Supply chain mapping
Kate, helped by volunteer Steve Isaac, is developing research on aspects of the local food production and distribution system, to provide illustrations and case studies.
Sustainability principles, previously agreed by the working party, have been published on the Sustain website. A simplified bullet-point list has also been agreed, for use on project leaflets, summaries, promotional materials and press releases.
At the end of January 2007, Eat Somerset secured additional funding from Government Office South West (GOSW). During February and March, Kate contacted a wide range of public-sector organisations in Bath and Northeast Somerset, presenting the case for sustainable food procurement and discussing steps they can take to introduce more local and sustainable food into their catering services. A report has been submitted to GOSW identifying opportunities for further work.
Kate is involved in a local food group planning to develop a local food project proposal to present to Rural Renaissance for funding. Project work may include developing a strategic framework for sustainable food activities, carrying out a more thorough mapping exercise and practical activities that build on those of Eat Somerset.
Project review and next steps
Sustain project line manager Kath Dalmeny, London Food Link's Ben Reynolds and Eat Somerset's Kate Bowie continue to contribute to the Real Steps Towards Sustainable Local Food Systems project, with a joint Sustain / New Economics Foundation (NEF) working party. Dan Keech of NEF has been writing up case studies, and we have fed back comments and additional information from other related projects.
In April, Kate and Kath met with Andrew Moore and Nicky Saunter of Somerset Food Links, to review the project. It was agreed that several approaches for the next stage should be explored, including:
- Facilitating a system of “piggybacking” local products into existing delivery systems operated by larger producers, to share transport costs and provide a more convenient service to retailers;
- Exploring how a mechanism could help producers and local food advocates to judge what is the most appropriate way for producers of different sizes and ambition to become more sustainable;
- Drawing together a range of different materials and case studies so that the project can help others to learn from its experiences.
The first Eat Somerset working party meeting took place in October 2006 and members were keen to support the project's aims – to increase trade between Somerset farmers and independent retailers and the public sector in Somerset and adjacent areas, including Bath and Bristol. It was agreed that the project should develop and work to a set of sustainability principles. These should ensure that, as far as possible, the project encourages practices that protect and promote wildlife and minimise energy-intensive inputs, such as artificial fertilisers; minimise fuel consumption, food packaging and waste; promote health and well-being amongst communities; celebrate food culture, and support local livelihoods and economies.
These principles are currently being developed. With East Anglia Food Links, Eat Somerset project officer Kate Bowie is also exploring the possibility of a Certificate of Provenance. This would work to provide assurance of quality local food, produced to good standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.
Kate is compiling a database of Somerset producers interested in being involved in the project.
Eat Somerset: From 2006 to 2009 Sustain co-ordinated a food chain project in south west England that worked to increase trading between producer groups in and around Somerset and independent food retailers in the county, and create new markets in Bristol and Bath.
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