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Launch of Food Direct from The Farm initiative

Business | Press | News

A new initiative by the East of England Agricultural Society, to locally source all the produce for its indoor and outdoor catering operations at the East of England Showground, is expected to put nearly £500,000 back into the pockets of local farmers and food producers each year.

The East of England Country Show 2005 celebrates the official launch of Food Direct from the Farm, which succinctly describes the food now consumed on the Showground, whether for a Gala dinner, a conference or a consumer event.

Food Direct from The Farm

"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 www.fooddirectfromthefarm.org.uk which 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.

June 2005





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