"It is important that any Agricultural Society supports its local
producers. We are doing just that with our local food purchasing
policy and to date have established a supplier network of over 30
Society members and local producers," said Andrew Mercer, Chief
Executive, East of England Agricultural Society.
"This initiative was started two
years ago when we set about finding fresh produce of the highest
quality from local sources. We began with our own in-house
Showground catering for functions and conferences. This was then
extended to outdoor catering with the launch of our own state-of-the
art mobile Outdoor Kitchen at last year’s Country Show.
"At the East of England Country Show
this year we have come full circle and taken control of the fast
food vendors at Showground events by developing a wholesale catering
operation. Non-farmer caterers are now obliged to purchase their
basic product lines including burgers, sausages and bacon from the
Society," he said.
In terms of food purchases this
initiative has enormous potential for the local economy. The
Showground attracts 800,000 visitors each year, providing a
substantial market for local farmers. The Showground has already
purchased £230,000 worth of produce since Food Direct from the Farm
started, and that is without the wholesale catering operation, which
is expected to add a further £300,000 - £400,000 per annum.
Food Direct from the Farm is
completely in tune with the key objectives of the Curry Commission
report which puts great emphasis on locally produced food or food
with a clear regional provenance, and current Government directives,
all of which point towards increasing the uptake of fresh produce.
It is also about promoting British
agriculture by providing local fresh produce of the highest quality
and best value. By identifying all its core catering needs the
Showground now has a directory of over 30 local suppliers. A full
supplier listing can be found on the dedicated Food Direct from the
Farm website at
will be launched on 17 June.
Woburn Country Foods is one of the
key local producers now supplying the Showground under the Food
Direct from the Farm initiative.
"We have been supplying the
Showground since we set up Woburn Country Foods three years ago,"
said Andrew Davies, Managing Director. "We now predominantly supply
our pork sausages and dry cure bacon for use throughout the
Showground – by the chefs for catered events, by the Showground’s
own mobile catering units and for wholesale supply to the catering
concessions at the outdoor events.
"This represents very regular
business for us. We have established a good working relationship
with the Showground. The chefs work in advance and order in large
quantities giving us plenty of notice, so that we can plan
deliveries well ahead. We can also now anticipate to some extent
what products they are likely to order so we can get them ready in
advance," he said.
Food Direct from the Farm is already
paying dividends for the Showground.
"Our food and beverage business at
the Showground is on target to achieve sales of over £1 million this
year, nearly double the 2004 figure. Our function business is
booming due to a combination of new buildings and excellent customer
response to our local food purchasing policy. We have also had a
very enthusiastic response from the public at recent events.
"Local suppliers are benefiting and
in return we are getting quality and consistency of supply at
competitive prices" said Mr Mercer.