Local food tastes better. There are many reasons to buy locally, but the
best reason is flavour. Food that doesn't travel as far is fresher.
Local farming Small local farms are more likely to use sustainable farming
practices and to grow a wider variety of crops. The heirloom seeds that your neighbouring farmer grows will remind you what tomatoes (or green beans, potatoes, peppers, etc) used to taste like. They will
also remind you that there is more than one kind of each, as local farms grow vegetables that are unique and inspirational to cook with.
The benefits of buying local produce Supporting the local farming community makes sense on the most basic level. You can feel good about yourself while enjoying a tasty meal. Here are some of the benefits:
The food is delicious.
Locally-grown food obviously does not cause as much pollution due to less travel time.
Keeping family farms alive keeps rural landscape alive, supporting less sprawl.
Spending your money where you live keeps your community thriving.
As a tourist looking for local flavour makes your visit more authentic. Folks don't travel
to Italy looking for a good burrito. If you come to our town taste what we grow.
The South West is particularly blessed with a booming community of small farms and food
producers. Try our goat cheeses, our farm produced cheeses, our beef, our lamb, our jams and pickles and our seasonal produce.
And if all of this is not reason enough, think of the health and safety of you and your
family. Small, local farms are less likely to use hormones and more likely to raise grass fed or free-range animals, and organically-grown vegetables.
If you know your farmer you know where to ask questions; the shorter the route from the farm
to your table (at home or in a restaurant), the more knowledge you have at hand and the more flavour you have on your plate.
FarmsDirect.org Linking the consumer with the producer
Vegetables on prescription
Carrots boost the immune system, according to research
Farmers of the future could be growing vegetables such as carrots and watercress for doctors' prescriptions.
Eating your greens has always been thought to be an essential part of staying healthy -
they provide roughage, vitamins and minerals.
However, scientists at the Institute for Food Research in Norwich have investigated
further - they have unravelled the specific properties of certain vegetables in preventing cancer.
Dr David Hughes, from the institute, said: "The work that we have been carrying out is
looking at potential mechanisms by which these compounds can have an effect on the immune cells that fight off cancers within the body
We can perhaps enhance immune
function in the elderly population to that of younger individuals by dietary means
Dr David Hughes, Institute of Food Research
.Dr Hughes said work had focused particularly on beta carotene, the compound which gives carrots their orange colour.
Researchers have been feeding beta carotene to healthy male volunteers and monitoring the effect on the body's immune
"The evidence that we have found suggests that beta carotene at a level that you can
achieve within the diet by just eating carrots and other highly pigmented fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and apricots does give a beneficial effect into the immune system."
Dr Hughes said his team were particularly interested in the potential effect on the elderly.
"There is quite a bit of evidence now to show that our immune system declines with age
, and there is also some evidence that we can perhaps enhance immune function in the elderly population to that of younger individuals by dietary means."
Another food that has been the subject of research is watercress.
Dr Richard Mithen, at the John Innes Centre, has recently discovered that it activates a
protective reaction to cancer when it is eaten.
"We have shown that a group of compounds that are found in relatively low levels in
watercress have a very strong potency in switching on protective enzymes after we eat it."
He said the leafy vegetable was also packed full of other ingredients - such as minerals
and vitamins - which have a beneficial effect on health.
Both Dr Hughes and Dr Mithen, however, caution against any attempt to extract active
ingredients from vegetables and market them in pill form.
Dr Hughes said: "The bulk of the scientific evidence showing a beneficial effect is from
people who have a broad range of consumption of fruit and vegetables.
"I think we are a long way off extracting all those important compounds that are present in them into a pill."
Dr Mithen said some plant chemicals were effective only in low concentrations, and that
it was possible that people could "overdose" if they took a concentrated pill form.
An edited version of a piece first broadcast on BBC Radio Four's Farming Today,
Prince Charles, whose Highgrove Farm has been dropped as a vegetable supplier to Sainsbury's.
Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty images
Sainsbury's has dropped the Prince of Wales and the head of the Soil Association as vegetable suppliers because it says their produce did not meet the right standards, the Guardian can reveal.
The move has prompted the director of the organic food and farming charity, Patrick
Holden, to accuse leading supermarkets of being so centralised and industrialised that they cannot deliver the local, organic food their customers want.
Mr Holden told the Guardian he believes that he and Prince Charles have become
victims of the supermarket system's industrial processes and imposed food miles. They were sacked as suppliers of carrots to Sainsbury's at the end of January.
He and the prince had been forced to truck their vegetables hundreds of miles from
their farms to a centralised packhouse in East Anglia before they were sent back to be sold in Sainsbury's stores local to their area.
Mr Holden believes his vegetables were of the highest quality when harvested, but the
combined effects of long-distance transport, handling to create large enough batches for the machines that wash and polish the vegetables and further storing after
processing to create large enough batches for packing left the vegetables damaged and prone to rot.
The system also resulted in a crop that had been grown for low environmental impact
acquiring a greater carbon footprint than conventional carrots grown on an industrial scale, according to Mr Holden. Up to half the crop from the two farms was being
rejected in the grading for cosmetic appearance and quality.
Mr Holden said he had decided to speak out because his case was typical. "Everyone
who has supplied a supermarket own label will have a story similar to mine to tell but most daren't tell it for fear of being delisted. This is not confined to one supermarket. It
is the unintentional consequence of the centralised supermarket distribution system."
Sainsbury's acknowledges that dealing with small suppliers is difficult for big
supermarkets, but says it works successfully with others and is willing to try to find a solution to the problems of its highest profile organic farmers. It said its overriding
concern had to be the quality of the food it sold.
When all fare's fair
Muesli and wine, ice cream and avocado - living on just Fairtrade foods means being creative with your meals, says Ben Clowney. He spent two weeks experimenting
Ben and some of the Fairtrade products he lived off for two weeks.
Ben Clowney, 26, promotes fair trade as part of his job at the aid agency Tearfund. But during Fairtrade fortnight, which ended on Sunday, he took his dedication to the cause to extremes by becoming a 'Fairtrade man' - consuming only food and drink that carried the Fairtrade Foundation's
With 2,500 Fairtrade products to choose from, Ben's challenge seemed simple - apart from the fact that
meant no meat, vegetables, dairy or bread ... so how did he get on?
Ben's story I fried muesli in red wine. It was a moment of sheer desperation during my fortnight of only eating food
displaying the Fairtrade mark - a challenge I undertook to highlight the range of products now available.
On the shelves of my local supermarkets I was surprised to find much more than just tea, coffee and
bananas. I discovered Fairtrade rice, cinnamon, apricots, juice, spices, lemons and more. Even fair trade beer! You can see how much choice was available in my local Sainsbury's on the film I made when I visited. While the choice is growing, prices are coming down as supermarkets respond to
pressure from consumers for fair trade products. This is likely to continue, and during Fairtrade fortnight both Sainsbury's and Waitrose announced their bananas will be only Fairtrade from now on.
Throughout my challenge I have been encouraging people to go into their local stores and ask them to stock a wider range of products.
Although there is a lot of choice, meals are still limited. For most of the time my diet could have been
every eight-year-old's dream - chocolate, cakes, biscuits and as much Ben & Jerry's Fairtrade vanilla
ice cream as I could eat. Unfortunately I don't have a sweet tooth, so survived mainly on rice, quinoa (a
kind of grain which for thousands of years was the staple food of the Incas), various nuts, spices and fruit.
As you can see from this this video the best meal of the fortnight was the one cooked by my mum for me and some friends to celebrate my Fairtrade birthday last week.
Here at FarmsDirect.org we are campaigning for Farm Trade.
It's commendable to buy Fair Trade produce, but let's support our local farms. This is what one individual wrote after reading about Ben Clowney's experiment.
Fair Trade or Farm Trade
Dear Mr Bravo
I feel I must comment on the article about Ben Clowney and his Fairtrade diet.
You say that "all meat, veg and most dairy products were off the shopping list", but I am
astounded that supporting our own farmers by buying meat, veg and dairy products from the local farm, or farm shop does not count as Fair Trade.
Is it only producers in other countries who need our support before the supermarkets take over
Yours sincerely SCT Somerset
The above is a copy of a letter sent in response to the Ben Clowney Story in the Independent
Rt Hon David Miliband MP Secretary of State,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Nobel House 17 Smith Square London SW1P 3JR
16 May 2007
Dear Secretary of State,
My friend, who is in farming
at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.
In your opinion, what is
the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under
the Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing
rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of
how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the
best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?
I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan
to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to
receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I
understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?
I am also considering the "not milking
cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual
fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.
I shall of course be voting for your Party at the next general election.
This is a genuine letter that was sent to the UK's Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food
& Rural Affairs.
The Problem with Supermarkets
The problem with the supermarkets is that they dictate the price, always awful for the farmer, whilst they keep the lion's share. I heard a farmer being interviewed on the
radio, he supplied carrots to, I think it was *****, for one of their 'let's support the local farmers' campaigns, this farmer was saying that the price they paid him barely covered his costs, but
they simply dictate what they are willing to pay. They also kept rejecting any carrots that weren't perfectly straight, saying that these were substandard!? Then they came to him and announced that they were
going to be running a 'buy one, get one free' on his carrots and that he would therefore have to supply double his normal amount but for half the price. (This is when I discovered that all buy one,
get one free' campaigns at supermarkets are paid for by the supplier and NOT the supermarket.) When the farmer explained that he simply couldn't afford to do this and that he would simply go under, they said in that case they would use imported carrots and with that cancelled his contract with him saying he had 'breached the contract'. It caused many more farmers and suppliers to phone and text-in telling the same story. So I am a little critical of the supermarkets, especially when they only pay lip-service to providing local produce and they have no interest in supporting them whatsoever.
Untreated milk cuts children's allergies
By PAT HAGAN, Daily Mail
Drinking 'raw' milk could reduce children's risk of suffering allergy-related conditions such as eczema and
hayfever, new research suggests.
British academics investigating why farmers' families suffer fewer allergies than others found that even occasional consumption of raw — unpasteurised — milk had a powerful effect. Just a couple of glasses a week reduced a
child's chances of developing eczema by almost 40 per cent and hayfever by 10 per cent. Blood tests revealed that drinking raw milk more than
halves levels of histamine, a chemical pumped out by cells in response to an allergen. It is thought the milk contains bacteria that help to prime the immune system.
But the findings, published in the Journal Of Allergy, Asthma And
Immunology, are controversial because unpasteurised milk is also a source of potentially fatal food-poisoning bugs. Raw milk was banned from sale in
Scotland 20 years ago, and can be sold by farmers in England and Wales only with labels clearly warning of the risks. There has been a huge
increase in the number of children suffering allergies in the past 30 years. One in three is now affected by eczema, hayfever or asthma — double the
level 20 years ago. And in the past ten years, the number of people needing emergency hospital treatment for severe allergic reactions has trebled to about 6,000 a year.
One of the biggest mysteries is why children raised on farms seem to suffer
less than those in towns and cities, even though they are exposed to many more allergens. When researchers at
the University of London analysed the diet and health of 4,700 primary school children in Shropshire, they found
that those who lived on farms had significantly fewer symptoms of asthma, hayfever and eczema. The study
looked at whether children were breast-fed and how often they were in contact with animals or played in barns.
The greatest benefits were found to come from drinking raw milk. Blood samples showed raw milk drinkers had
60 per cent lower levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE).When the immune system comes into
contact with an allergen, it overreacts by pumping out huge quantities of IgE.The antibody causes cells to release
histamine into the bloodstream and it is this release that triggers allergy symptoms. 'It might be that even relatively
infrequent exposure to unpasteurised milk is sufficient to have a protective effect,' the researchers concluded.
But some experts are warning parents that any benefits are still far outweighed by the chances of their child
becoming infected with organisms such as E. coli and campylobacter, two of the main food-poisoning bugs. Even
if there are benefits in terms of allergies, the risks from drinking unpasteurised milk are just too great,' says
Professor Hugh Pennington, a retired microbiologist who has investigated some of Britain's worst food poisoning outbreaks.
'Pasteurisation is there as a safety net to kill off any bugs.' Pasteurised milk sold in supermarkets has been heated
to 71C for 15 seconds. This destroys bad bacteria and extends the shelf life.But some campaigners believe it
also kills off good bacteria which help protect the gut against disease, and significantly reduces the milk's vitamin
content. Unpasteurised cow's or goat's milk has not been heat-treated, and still contains bacteria from the animal
.Sold as 'green top' bottled milk, it accounts for about one per cent of milk sales in England and Wales and is available only direct from farms, or through farmers' markets.
It is estimated that about 130 dairy farms sell raw milk. The Chartered Institute Of Environmental Health is
pushing for a ban on sales of unpasteurised milk in England. But John Barron, from Beaconhill Farm in Herefordshire, says demand is growing for raw milk produced by his 40-strong herd of Jersey cows.He sells
about 50 litres a week, at £1 a litre, from his farm and through markets. 'I've got lots of customers who give it to
their children and there has never been a single case of food poisoning,' he says. I get inquiries from as far as
Manchester, Birmingham and Yorkshire from people wanting to know where they can get hold of raw milk. I
even get calls from cancer victims because they believe it will help them. Demand is definitely growing.'
Beaconhill Farm: 01531 640275.
JESSE SLAMS NEW EVIDENCE OF DEFRA WASTE AND INCOMPETENCE
29 October 2007
Conservative parliamentary candidate Jesse Norman has slammed new evidence of waste and incompetence at DEFRA, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Information just released to Parliament shows that DEFRA has spent £1.1 billion on consultants since 2002. Of this sum, £490 million was spent on IT workers administering
rural payments to farmers, roughly one-third of the total amount paid last year.
The cost of DEFRA consultants in 2006-7 alone was £290 million. But the department took 8 months after tenders were received to begin repairs on the leaking effluent pipes
in Pirbirght that were the cause of the recent Foot and Mouth outbreak. The repairs cost £220,000, while the cost of the FMD outbreak is estimated to run to hundreds of millions of pounds.
"This new evidence is absolutely damning," said Jesse. "DEFRA has spent over a billion pounds of taxpayers' money on consultants over the past five
years. Yet during this time it has presided over a catalogue of errors and mismanagement.
"DEFRA has woefully failed to manage the single farm payment scheme effectively. It has been not the cure but the cause of a disastrous outbreak of Food and Mouth
disease. And there has been an explosion of paperwork and petty regulation.
"It is a department crying out for root and branch reform." Jesse Norman Oct 2007
Tories champion food co-ops to counter supermarkets' power
David Cameron will today back moves to break the supermarkets' stranglehold over farmers by setting up US-style neighbourhood food co-ops. Fashionable among liberal foodies,
the co-op movement champions locally produced, seasonal food bought direct from suppliers, reducing the 'food miles' from farm to plate by comparison with supermarket air-freighted produce.
Stores are set up by groups of like-minded people who club together to buy in bulk and often work voluntarily in the shops - meaning groceries can be sold to members at a heavy
discount, but suppliers are still guaranteed a fair price.
Cameron is expected to highlight the idea in a speech tomorrow to the National Farmers' Union, whose members are campaigning against what they say are unfair attempts by
supermarkets to force down prices at the farm gate. Jesse Norman, a Tory activist close to the Cameron inner circle who chairs the Conservative Co-operative Movement, will this week launch a book explaining
how to set up food co-ops in Britain.
'Supermarkets are fantastic ways of getting a wide range of goods at low prices, but there are all kinds of problems associated with them. The main one is that they have
totally disconnected the provision of food from the local area,' said Norman.
The debate follows proposals from the Competition Commission for an independent ombudsman to rule on farmers' complaints against supermarkets, amid what farmers describe as
a 'culture of fear' generated by the big chains' attempts to keep their costs down. They have highlighted tactics including forcing suppliers to meet the cost of 'buy-one-get-one free'
promotions and ditching suppliers who publicly complain.
Farmers' markets are popular, but co-ops take the idea a step further by requiring a community to work together to operate the shop. They can also deliver discounts of up to
40 per cent, whereas farmers' markets tend to be more expensive.
The co-operative movement in the UK is traditionally associated with the Labour party, while in the United States it grew out of hippy principles. But Norman said there was
nothing wrong with the Conservatives appropriating it: 'There's nothing in what it is to be a co-op that places it anywhere in the political spectrum.'