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Archive for September, 2010

Breakfast Meeting In Llandeilo

30 Sep

I was told yesterday that there had been a breakfast meeting held in Llandeilo on Monday 27th September and why hadn’t I been there. But I can’t attend something I don’t know about, can I? So what did I miss? Well according to, Welsh Assembly Government’s, WAGs website, all the Food Strategy meetings have taken place, but this was an extra special one run by South West Wales Agri Food Sector and chaired by Wynfford James, Head of Food, Fisheries & Marketing Division. The invitation list was to selected people only – which means that I’m not select, gosh what a shame! Sorry wrong word, is sham more appropriate? Why is the South West worthy of another meeting and the rest of us not? As I’m based in Ceredigion, I don’t come under the South West area, Pembrokeshire does, but Ceredigion can often be ignored, but for food we come under mid Wales. We no longer have a Regional Manager, as I understand the south east doesn’t either, with Tony Griffiths no longer in post.

Not knowing about the meeting, is annoying, but even more so is the fact that the South West appears to be looked after better than the rest of Wales. Luckily for them the WAG Food budget cuts have not arrived yet with breakfast I believe costing £11.00 per head, paid for – yes you’ve guessed, you and me!!!

I understand Pembrokeshire Direct were special enough to be invited, although they weren’t at the Pembrokeshire meeting that I attended on 14th September. Mind you Pembrokeshire County Council’s Food Officer, Kate Morgan was and as PCC had put money into PD too, maybe that’s covered it. Many of you are aware of the huge funding Pembrokeshire Direct has had, so it’s no wonder they’re happier than many out there in the Welsh food industry.

Now who was talking about a level playing field here in Wales…………………..no, that wasn’t me

 
 

Well Done Narbeth

27 Sep

Narbeth Food Festival 25th – 26th September

Size doesn’t always matter – well not when it’s related to food festivals! I attended Narbeth on Saturday and although Narbeth cannot compare to Abergavenny in size, the friendly atmosphere that generated around this festival, really does make it a must-visit festival. Narbeth is a regular festival for us and yet again this year, they managed to tick my must-have boxes: plenty of signage going in, shops in the town supporting with window displays, a tented outside space area for sitting, eating & chatting, entertainment for children and a wonderful selection of Welsh producers. I managed to have a chat with chefs Dudley Newbery and Angela Gray who were there to do cookery demos to capacity audiences, which was so good to see.

I was pleased to see one of my favourite coffee companies there – Preseli Coffee and they were a regular stop as Ian and I got through our workload, their mocha coffee is  a particular favourite. Mind you we were there so long that lunch became a must , which meant we had to visit Samosaco, who have the only samosa factory in Wales. They have authentic and homemade flavours that are combined with their secret family recipe and they are so good. Eventually we decided on a veggie biriani and chicken biriani and they were delicious!!!! It’s silly really that I’m always amazed by the high quality of products this company produces, I have always loved the variety they produce and as for the quality, well you need to try for yourself, they never disappoint. We even took some home too!!   

But whether I am at a food event, craft fair, equestrian event, well any event really, I hate to see tradestanders sitting down, especially when there are plenty of customers about, and this is only enhanced when they sit behind their tables reading!!!!!!!  Hmm ……..reading…….  well I noted only one culprit at Narbeth, so stand up, yes stand up Miller Research. One of their guys was so bored or exhausted with the Narbeth festival by 12.00, that he sat  behind his table reading his newspaper. I’m sorry, but in my book, or on my payroll, this behaviour is unacceptable. He should have been engaging with the visitors and explaining why Miller Research were there. He wasn’t a food producer having to sell his wares to make a living, as the Welsh Assembly Government Food Division, (which is us the tax payer), are paying for their services, but that is still not a valid excuse to sit and read the paper. If you are meant to be taking a break, and your ‘break’ was a long one  – then take it off the stand, especially when Narbeth have thoughtfully provided a seating area. I bet he wasn’t even aware that a photographer took a picture of him reading …………………………

 
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Top Marks To Mold Food & Drink Conference – Friday 24th September

27 Sep

It was the first conference held by Flintshire Tourism Partnership, and judging by the reaction to the day, it should be the first of many. Dewi Davies and Shelly Barratt should be congratulated for their efforts and hospitality. Ian and I took our Welsh Country magazine tradestand there to support our Best Of Welsh food producers in the north and despite the early morning start, it really was worthwhile. We made some very good contacts and we’ll keep on trying to join the gaps helping food producers support the hospitality industry making it a win-win situation for everyone.

Congratulations also go to the Beaufort Park Hotel, Mold who put on the most wonderful buffet using local produce. It can be done and it really is worth the effort!

 
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Abergavenny Food Festival 18th -19th September

21 Sep

This festival certainly sets the bar high in terms of putting on a good food show and this year was no exception. Saturday I understand was tremendously busy, with people having to wait to go into the Market Hall due to huge numbers of people eager to see some of the True Taste winners.  Sunday when I attended was a little quieter than Saturday and it was a pleasure to talk to many producers who had had a very busy and very profitable show. It was good to hear this as many food festivals and farmers markets are showing a hefty downturn in trade. 

However I have yet to do the rounds of a festival without hearing complaints!! But it’s my job to listen and evaluate whether it’s just one disgruntled producer or there’s more………….. Well one regular moan is producers who have not been able to get a stand in the first place or been told that they have been coming for a years and visitors want a change! Well I don’t accept that ‘visitors’ want a change, why would they? They are only making an annual visit and they like to know that a particular favourite producer of theirs will be there and just as importantly where they will be! Wearing a Press badge, I got stopped quite a few times and asked ‘where’s such and such a stand, they always used to be in one place now they aren’t there…..’ Another query was a lady who had checked out on the Aber website website before travelling, but then on Sunday the stand she really wanted wasn’t there. I can only assume the producer only did Saturday but that certainly annoyed that visitor. It seems a few stands did only attend on the Saturday and it was supposed to stop too many similar stands but this festival is so popular and seems to have plenty of helpers why not make more use of the streets and do runs of stands instead of one then walk a bit and then another……….

I counted around 190 stands, but 75 of these were not Welsh. I have commented in the past about the garlic man who travels from the Isle of Wight, well this year he did not come alone I noted a few including one stand doing only tomatoes. With Abergavenny’s geographical position so close to the border, having companies from the border countries is understandable, but Cornwall, London and Italy to just name a few is fair enough if our Welsh producers are not turned away. Abergavenny organisers have never said that they are a, ‘Welsh Food Festival’ but they do take funding from the Welsh Assembly Government. So the question has to be asked why is the Welsh Assembly Government supporting, albeit indirectly, stands from many hundreds of miles away and other smaller truly Welsh Food Festivals are struggling to survive? I guess I’ll get the response it’s also European money so we can’t turn stands away, but in fact they are turning Welsh stands away and as there’s also a Welsh Assembly supported Food Festival in Aberystwyth also running on the Saturday could those from outside Wales not be directed to that one?  I can understand the huge problems the festival committee have in allocating stands, they are in some ways a victim of their success but might it help if by the end of this year we are told how tradestands will be allocated- what criteria they are working too?  

After years of complaining that Welsh food is not served in the hospitality area, I’m delighted to report that this year it was! What a difference it made too and a useful showcase for our wonderful products. I was also delighted to see guests enjoying bottles of beer from Breconshire Breweries – well done Abergavenny. 

With such pressure of budgets, I am sure that food will not escape cuts and I am aware that food festivals are already being evaluated. I think it is time for the larger festivals, like Abergavenny to be self-funded and maybe they could be persuaded to help the smaller festivals that are finding things increasingly difficult, for some help and advice.

I can only congratulate Abergavenny for doing such a tremendous job this weekend and I must finish by saying how polite and helpful the volunteers I encountered were.

 
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Consultation On Food Strategy For Wales

16 Sep

Food for Wales, Food from Wales 2010-2020

On 14th September I attended one of four meetings being held across Wales as part of the consultation on a Food Strategy plan for the next decade. As this meeting was held in Pembrokeshire, I was disappointed that there weren’t that many producers there about 7 from 24 people including WAG. I always striving to get the Welsh Assembly Government, in all its departments and divisions, to communicate better with us,  so I was very disappointed that there weren’t more ‘grass roots’ people there. I wanted to see a better turnout from producers especially as Pembrokeshire is such a strong food county, but  maybe they have attended the other meetings. However the consultation period ends on 28th September, so if you want your views to be considered – then do something about it, please!!!! 

The evening was well-chaired by Katie Palmer – (biog below for those who do not know Katie) and the WAG presentation was delivered by Wynfford James – Head of Food, Fisheries & Marketing Development Division. I thought that Joey Hughes, Head of Food Policy & Strategy Unit might have presented to us, but perhaps he was too busy………

There was much discussion about 4 goals: sustainability, resilience, competiveness and profitability and murmurings that profitability should surely have more importance, otherwise how were producers going to stay in business?  

However, WAG are making the right noises about consultation and giving all of us ample opportunity to have our say, pity their documentation is not the easiest to read – but don’t give up! Trying to understand the interconnectivity between all the quangos, groups and other governmental departments, not forgetting those at the coal-face producing, manufacturing and selling the food that we all need is nigh on impossible.

WAG also promise that before they put in directions that there will be further consultation, but with Assembly Elections coming up next May, these consultations may have a political slant. Also as good as many of these ideas are, it is the delivering of the scheme when the real test will come.

In the meantime, I do urge you all to go to the consultation website and submit your views, we cannot complain after the event if we, the food industry, stays silent now. I’m concerned that many will find the form daunting, and if this is how you feel, please jusr send them an email with your views. I’m assured that emails will still be accepted.  Tell WAG how you are finding things in your sector now and what you want to happen in the next ten years. Maybe like me you wonder how WAG Food can actually plan for 10 years, so say that too. Is distribution a worry for you, are farmer markets and festivals your main outlets, are you happy how these are working? Or are you worried because trade is down?  I’m sure you’ll have lots of questions too..  

How to respond

Please submit your comments by 28 September 2010, in any of the following ways:

Online form

Respond using the online form

Email

foodpolicy@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Post

Lisa Penny
Food Policy & Strategy Unit
Welsh Assembly Government
Rhodfa Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
SY23 3UR

Katie Palmer was Lead Food Project officer for adventa at Monmouthshire County Council, Katie was responsible for leading community and business food projects. Working with partners she developed pilots and secured funding for a ‘whole school’ approach to school meals in Monmouthshire. She was also instrumental in developing the local food chain, encouraging local businesses and communities to network and source local produce.

During her five years in the international dairy industry, Katie worked with a number of major food businesses to develop new products and bring them to market. Her business development role at Volac International required both technical science and marketing skills to develop the market for whey protein in Europe and America. She developed a strong understanding of food legislation in this role, particularly when the foot and mouth crisis hit the UK and food regulations tightened significantly.

As the Chair of the Welsh Assembly’s Food and Drink Advisory Group, Katie has a good overview of the Food Industry in Wales. She also has a first class degree in Biology, a Masters of Science in Nutrition and is a member of the Nutrition Society.

 
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Cowpots Ice-Cream Now Have A Shop In Carmarthen

01 Sep

Cowpots have recently opened an ice-cream parlour and coffee shop in Blue Street, Carmarthen, quite close to the bus station.

I was in Carmarthen on Bank Holiday Monday and went into the Coffee Bar, in Kings Street. I selected from the menu that was on the table but when I went to order I was told they were unable to serve me with a sandwich, as they stopped serving food at 3 o’clock. When it was pointed out that it was only 2.40, they were simply not bothered. One girl then tried to pacify my partner and I, saying that they would cook, but that the one item I wanted was a breakfast item and that finished serving at 11.00am. Again it didn’t state this on their menu. Exasperated, I asked for the manager but neither the manager or the  and owner were available. I left my business card and asked to be telephoned on Tuesday. Needless by Wednesday still no phone call.  Don’t companies want to no if customers aren’t happy? Late Wednesday morning we rang and spoke to the manager who then told us that I was mistaken with the time and it must have been well after 3.00pm and also said she’d not be given our business card. She took our details again and we wait……….

But Monday wasn’t all bad – as walking into town we were stopped by Martin from Cowpots who was offering samples of their milkshakes and encouraging people to visit their shop. Martin, is one of the sons of Cowpots founder Brian and wife Mary-Lou and he certainly got 10 out of 10 for taking the trouble to market their new venture. I then visited the shop and took  advantage of their ‘Meal Deal’ which is any sandwich, a packet of crisps and a hot or cold drink, all for £2.75. Martin is ably assisted by girlfriend Natasha and I’m so impressed by this young couple taking on an exciting venture, despite the tough trading times. Plans are already afoot to bring in a winter menu too. Hopefully word will spread and Martin and Natasha will be rushed off their feet!!!

Cowpots are based just outside Whitland and are one of many superb ice-cream makers here in Wales. Makers of luxury Jersey ice cream, right there on the farm, from their small herd of pedigree jersey cows. I’m sure you’ll have seen Cowpots at food festivals or been able to purchase from most major towns and popular locations including:  Tenby, Saundersfoot, Narberth, Haverfordwest, Carmarthen, Laugharne, St. Clears, Craig Y Nos Country Park in the Beacons and of course – Whitland their home town.

 
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