Somerset Creates a Template for Connecting Consumers Direct to Sustainable Food Producers
The Somerset Food Trail is a model example of how eco-conscious growers can collaborate to supply the food chain in a sustainable way that is both profitable and benefits natural ecosystems, being the antithesis of large-scale, intensive farming. Somerset resident, Theresa Simon PR reports for Ateliers Verts® on this impressive annual event:
Somerset is home both to some of Britain’s most established food producers – it is the birthplace of English cheddar – and to some of the most innovative artisan food makers working in Britain today.
The Somerset Food Trail was set up by in 2018 to put Somerset's nature-friendly farmers on the map, with an annual Festival (running this year 15-24 July) that encourages producers to open up their farms, orchards and vineyards, giving important insights into where food comes from and the many benefits of buying local.
From biodynamic vineyards to community-funded food forests; small batch, organic cheesemaking to rare breed pigs, apple orchards, aquaponics and cider making; buffalo mozzarella to milk-based vodka: the 10-day Festival offers a wealth of foodie experiences and shows how much our local farmers already contribute to the food supply chain.
Stewart Crocker, chair of the Food Trail's organising committee, says the event aims to give visitors a better understanding of where food comes from, and the benefits of supporting regenerative and climate friendly approaches to farming. Regenerative Farming describes farming and grazing practices that promote ecological growing, improve soil quality and increase biodiversity to protect the natural environment and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
He says: "There's a growing interest in healthier, more environmentally-friendly food. Buying local, sustainably-grown food supports the producers, the local economy and the environment. It’s good for our health, good for the soil and the climate – and food that hasn’t travelled hundreds of miles just tastes a whole lot better!"
As well as helping people access the fantastic food producers on their doorstep, the Food Trail also has a serious purpose. "Food and farming have been a vital part of the life of Somerset for
generations. Yet our food and farming system is under pressure as never before and diet-related health problems, such as type two diabetes and obesity, are on the rise," says Crocker. Intensive Farming and supply chains are too often long and fragile, with significant negative impacts on climate, wildlife, biodiversity, eco-systems, human health and food security.
"The Government's own National Food Strategy says our food system has become an ecological disaster. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with just 53% of our biodiversity left, well below the global average of 75%, according to the Natural History Museum. Both figures are below the 90% level that experts believe is needed to prevent the world from tipping into an “ecological recession” – a future in which ecosystems do not have enough biodiversity to function well, leading to crop failures and infestations that could cause shortages in food, energy and materials.
[The Government's National Food Strategy is an independent report, led by Henry Dimbleby, which looked at the entire food chain, from field to fork. It reported in July 2021 that: “The manufacture, production and distribution of food has become an ecological disaster. Globally (and domestically), it is the single largest contributor to the destruction of habitats, biodiversity and major abiotic systems (water, nitrogen and carbon).”]
“The great news is that we can all help bring about a shift to more nature-friendly farming through our everyday food choices."
This year the Trail features around 190 venues – a major increase from 2018’s showing of 30 - with funding from a number of town councils and network of around 30 volunteer coordinators.
Rob Walrond, who runs an organic farm at Pitney, will be on the Trail this year as he was in 2018. He says: "One of the ways we can make the biggest difference to our health and the environment is to value food more highly… and learn about it. The Food Trail is a great way for people to understand more about how our food is produced and to learn about the growing movement of farming in harmony with nature."
Somerset's Climate Action Strategy states that local authorities have a crucial, leadership role to play “promoting healthy and climate-friendly and nature-friendly choices to residents”. The Somerset Food Trail offers a ‘readymade’ channel for doing this, with a host of additional benefits, including boosting tourism revenue.
The Food Trail is supported by Mendip District Council. As well as showcasing farms, it celebrates the full range of sources of sustainable food in Somerset, including allotments, home grown and community supported agriculture – even foraging and gleaning. It also includes cafes, restaurants and pubs serving locally sourced food; farm shops, retail outlets and suppliers such as Somerset Local Food providing locally sourced food.
Somerset Food Trail: www.somsersetfoodtrail.org
Theresa Simon PR: www.theresasimon.com
(Header Image: Misty sunrise at the Tor, Somerset by Ben Pulletz)
©Ateliers Verts Ltd. 2022
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