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Archive for April, 2012

Gorseinon Food Festival

30 Apr

This was a good festival last year, so after getting the programme through, I drove across on Saturday to see what 2012 would bring. AA signage was good going into Gorseinon and I was pleased to see that they had again got a shuttle bus service in operation which was much needed and worked very well. But with lots of magazines in the boot I thought I’d  see if I could get parked in
the traders car park – cheeky I know! Well a polite volunteer explained that the heavy rain had turned the trade park into a squelchy mess and she was concerned if I actually got on, would I get off? Fair point, but she directed me to the back entrance where another friendly male volunteer found us a dry spot to park up. So after a fair drive, and feeeling rather chilly, it was another good start to this event. What difference pleasant helpful volunteers make.

First job was to search out my contact Karen. It was lovely to catch up and be able to put a face to a person I’d only spoken to on the phone and by email. Karen, as always, had plenty of information and news to offer and she also introduced me to the Mayor. The weather was cold, windy but it didn’t stop people arriving and a busy marquee was just what the traders needed.  There was a bit of a change around this year with the stands all being incorporated into the main marquee, instead of those selling
hot food being positioned outside. With the weather as it was I think this worked well but at times the marquee did get rather smoky. Anywya there was certainly no hope of sitting outside in the sunshine. I’m sure if the traders wdisagree with me it will come through on their feedback forms and the organisers can get more feedback on whether that was a success or not.

The demo kitchen area was situated just inside the entrance, instead of as last year down at the end of the marquee. But for me
that didn’t work as well.  The organisers had done the area well and I was really pleased to see a large board that clearly showed who was cooking and when – other festival please note!

But with quite a lot going on around the entrance, ladies selling raffle tickets and the superb giant jubilee cake which was sold in aid of the Gorseinon Foodbank and the Cystic Fibrosis Unit at Singleton Hospital, which was a great idea to support two very good causes. So with all that going on I still think the demo area would have worked better down at the bottom of the marquee. It would have dragged people all the way through the marquee and helped the tradestands that had been sited down in that area, which seemed to be a fair bit quieter than those at the entrance. Not sure why this was changed, whether it was electric costs or just trying something different, but with such a popular feature, I’m sure you could have got more chairs in as it was always full when I tried to get a seat.

So from my point of view, Gorseinon was a great success. We did have a lot of Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there and of course many did find time to talk as I was there for five hours……….I did hear from a few traders, who hadn’t done that well, but again they were mostly down at the end of the marquee. If people were walking down that far, the chances were that they’d already bought their cheese, beer, jams etc. Ok it was ever thus, but we do have to remember that wag stipulate that even a small festival, with under 3,000 footfall must have no less than 25 food producers exhibiting to get funding. Larger ones with over 3,000 footfall must have no less than 35 producers exhibiting to be eligible for funding support. Food and drink producers must also form at least 80% of the total exhibitors.  So with the wag’s restrictions, organisers also have problems too, many simply cannot run unless they get funding so bascially organsiers do have to do as they are told! I’m still convinced that if traders have ‘demands,’ than a polite request will often suffice. But if you can’t agree then the choice is yours not to attend isn’t it? I wish we could solve these regualrs grubles that come up each year and just wish someone would tell me how to do it.

Gorseinon got people into the event,  so they did their job well and my congratulations once again for a good event. But once the
people are in, it’s down to producers to sample and sell and I must also say that quite a few were sampling and getting out from behind their stands and talking to people. That was good to see and works as long as you don’t obstruct your neighbours!!!

Well done everyone at Gorseinon ………

 
 

‘A Sense Of Place’ For Welsh Food………

17 Apr

Just to keep you updated, follows is an extract from press release received from Wag on 30th January about their support for food festivals.

Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said, “Each year food festivals in Wales contribute millions of pounds to the economy and are a key element in promoting Wales’ burgeoning food culture and giving visitors a sense of place’. Large or small, they have their own distinct character, but with one common thread – to bring to the public’s attention the fantastic array of food and drink produced in Wales.”

The press release ended by saying:
Any financial support provided by FMDD will be limited to that which is necessary to achieve the overall objective of providing capacity building opportunities for food & drink producers from Wales as well as contributing to a broadened & strengthened rural economy”.

Well this got me thinking, or fuming, because basically I’m not sure what this press release means. Initially I would think building opportunities for food and drink producers from Wales is spot on, until I get complaints from producers saying that some festival organisers, give priority to producers from outside Wales.  But its not just a priority in allowing them tradestand space, but often they get the best sites too! So how does that work? Especially considering that this isn’t just happening at the larger, or let’s say Wag’s ‘Big Three’, Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff that allow all comers in from the UK, but those that I’d class as only small to medium size events. When I have raised these issues with Wag, I’ve been told that as this funding is from European money, all
tradestands must be accepted.

But if you’re a visitor to Wales and go along to one of our food festivals, where do you expect the food to have come from, the Isle of Wight, Scotland, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire? Of course not. ‘A sense of place’ for our visitors has to mean local food, food sourced here in Wales from our superb artisan producers. Isn’t that what you’d expect too?

So why then does Wag’s press release appear to say that they are backing our food producers all the way? That
is certainly not what I hear day after day so eiother Wag is wrong or our producers are. After talking contstantly to our Best If Welsh & Borders producers, I certainly know which I believe.

 
 

Wag’s Help Food Festivals Flourish???

16 Apr

You will be aware of how much time and effort I have spent trying to get the food festival funding list from Wag. So I had to take care with the heading for this one, just in case I got you too excited. So let me warn you now, excitement will not be a problem, frustration and annoyance surely will. Follows is a Press Release from wag, shown in full with no editing from me, received this afternoon:

16 April 

Welsh Government Helps Food And Drink Festivals To Flourish

Food and drink festivals all over Wales are to be offered a share of a £339,280 pot in support from the Welsh
Government. The 33 festivals, large and small, feature a wide range of products and producers- among them many of the Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards winners.

Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said: “Food festivals play an important role in attracting visitors and providing a showcase for producers. The Welsh Government is committed to continuing to support the Welsh food industry and strengthening its culture. Welsh food and drink remains one of our popular tourist attractions, and also plays a vital part in the Welsh economy.”

“ I am delighted that once again we are able to help a number of these events.”

During 2012 the festivals will collectively receive £339,280 in assistance, marking Wales’ reputation as a producer of high quality and diverse food and drink.

Well dear readers, you might well ask me what festivals are running this year and how much are the favoured 33 festivals are to receive. Sorry but that information was not included or attached. So I have emailed the contact I was given to get those answers but I was emailed by return saying my contact was away until 1st May – brilliant! Next option was to try another contact and have got a reply. I’ve been told that wag have made offers to the fesitvals and when they have been accepted, wag will then publish this list on their website.

Now isn’t that helpful? Well actualy no, because once again I have no idea when this will happen. Is wag’s aim that I go onto their website on a daily basis to help their rankings improve? Hmmmm, think I’ve got better things to do than that……….

Some food festival organisers are not very happy, and I a sure wag will not be the slightest perturned on that one, but we are still getting too many calls in from festivals that haven’t got as much as they need and are now having committee meetings to see if their festival can actually go ahead. It’s not a good state of affairs and not a system that has proved workable. Wonder how much the big three have been reduced, but in reality we’ll not be told how much they applied for unless I do yet another FOI question.

Which maybe is the quickest way to sort this out once and for all.

I’ve ‘asked’ wag for the initial offer list which will be quite useful to compare year on year, but if and when that might arrive, is anyone’s guess, bearing in mind we are working in wag-time. So once more, please don’t hold your breath.

 
 

25 Mile, Cardigan – Great Concept – But Check When Food Served

16 Apr

On Saturday I was driving back home from Pembrokeshire and called into Cardigan to pay a further visit to the 25 Mile establishment. It’s about a three or four weeks since I last found this place and readers, it did impress me! So much so that I was asking people if they’d been, thinking I was the only one that had been missing out, but no everyone I spoke to had never visited it because they knew nothing about it!!!

So then Kath,m ever the professional, goes into her PR mode and explains that their principle is to source products from within a 25 mile radius as the crow flies, bearing in mind there are always exceptions like coffee. Actually it was their coffee supplier, Preseli Coffee, who told me about it and as I rate their Preseli Coffee enormously, that was sufficient encouragement for me to track down 25 Mile Cardigan. So my first visit was a huge success, wonderful food, great service,

I loved their local food concept and having details of where they’d sourced their products, was a bonus. The young lady that served us was delightful, smiley, helpful and friendly; even I couldn’t ask or want for more. But on Saturday, it all fell apart because when Ian and I went in and were checking out the menu which is on huge blackboards on the wall, a young man asked us if we wanted food, which we did, but then told us they stopped serving at 3.00 and the time then was 3.10pm. I’d walked in under a sing above the door which said ‘Local Eating House’ and there was another blackboard outside saying ‘Open All Day’. We did look, but couldn’t see lunchtime food as 12 – 3.00 anywhere, but there we are. The young man said everywhere in Cardigan stops food at 3.00, which was obviously acceptable and made sense to him, but not to me.

Firstly I’m not even sure that statement was true, but Wales relies on tourists, and it was still in theory,  the Easter holidays. He certainly wouldn’t know we were locals or tourists but either way the kitchen was closed, and we weren’t even offered a sandwich. So there was no option but for us to walk out. My suggestion is, if it’s vital that 25 Mile has to close for a break at 3.00, which obviously has to be their choice, just have a board or sign outside giving times of food service. It’s easy with hindsight to say that I shouldn’t have been tempted to pay a second visit to 25 Mile, I should have played safe, stayed in Pembrokeshire and visited
again either The Shed at Porthgain or Morawelon on the Parrog, Newport!!!

They certainly impressed me the first time, but ………………….

Hopefully some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers might be lucky to be supplying them

 
 

Deli Delights – St Dogmaels

10 Apr

After the disappointment of Newport local produce market being cancelled on Easter Monday because of the rain……………………I was not in the best of moods driving back home, when I’d a local shopping list unfulfilled. So I decided to return via St
Dogmaels, which is in one of the many picturesque parts of Pembrokeshire and call into Deli Delights. I was confident that checking out their superb deli counter would be the best way to cheer my visitors up.

Following a move from Cardigan, owner and deli guru, Mandy Wilcox  along with her team have done a superb job
setting up in St Dogs. As well as a delicious deli counter, there are tables and chairs inside, which was just the temptation we needed to grab a table and order Welsh bacon sandwiches and a Welsh Ploughman’s. Then there was the difficult decision to decide what to drink, and spoilt for choice was certainly the problem. Mandy’s selection of leaf teas and coffees show that this is a lady who knows and understands the food trade and her local market. I knew I was in safe hands taking my visitors there, as I’d been to Deli Delights when they first moved to St Dogs. My confidence was justified as no-one was disappointed, quite the opposite, we were delighted with all our food and drink. So much so we stayed for ages, relishing yet another round of drinks as we continued our chatting.

Mandy is very supportive of local food producers, but also has a great selection of national and international products. If you are ever stuck for a gift idea for a food lover, then give a thought to a food hamper and let Mandy sort it all out for you.

Trust me, and make a point of calling in if you are ever in the area. Deli Delights is at 28 High Street, it’s really easy to find and there are tables and chairs outside when the sun breaks through!!!!

Super products, super service – you cannot ask for more.

 

 
 

Still Awaiting Wag’s Food Festival Listing

10 Apr

Anger and rumours still abound about why Wag’s list is so late. But I’m hearing that organisers have this morning received their letters of confirmation of their funding from Wag.

I’m sure a press release is on its way to me, but needless to say I am not holding my breath!!!!!

Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will get the list sent through to them from our team as soon as we have it.

 
 

Newport Local Produce Market

10 Apr

Easter often gives me the chance to go out and about on the Bank Holiday Friday and Monday, such a pleasant change from being chained to my computer.

I went to Haverfordwest market on Friday and then onto Newport on Monday. Trade was reasonable at Haverfordwest which was good to hear after a lot of poor reports have come into me.

However Newport was a very different story. Wind didn’t stop actually play, but the Newport Market Manager decided to cancel the market because of a forecast of gusts of wind over 30mph. The reason for this is it’s a limit imposed by St Dogmaels market, whose stalls Newport use, for Health & Safety reasons!!!

Pathetic doesn’t even cover this scenario, especially as St Dogmaels ran an Easter Fair themselves on Easter Monday, so Newport had to hire in stalls from Haverfordwest! So this was puzzling. Yes of course with that forecast, they’d have had to take extra care, but they’ve done this in the past, I think it comes under ‘sandbags and commonsense’.

I really couldn’t believe it. The Market Manager had listened to the weather report; gusts of wind were forecast, so the decision was made that the market would not run.

I assume that the Market Manager responsible for this decision has:

  1. Never worked as a market trader – or
  2. Never been self-employed when gusts of wind just don’t stop play, especially when you have the added pressure to earn some money to survive.

Surely I cannot be the only person that goes shopping in the wind and rain, can I? No of course not, otherwise most of Wales would at times be short of many basic food stuffs, sorry I’m being silly.

I was, and still am, cross with this feeble excuse for cancelling a weekly market as weekly markets are something I have been championing for years. Then Newport starts up a weekly market and I’m told by  traders that business is quite good and much appreciated by the locals – brilliant – winners all round. As I regularly travel around Pembrokeshire, I’d seen a sign telling of their Monday market, but this was my first chance to visit, so I was also very disappointed.

I have two main moans, firstly for the producers. At least three traders made contact with the market manager on the Sunday  afternoon/evening, one as late as 7.30pm to be told the market was going ahead. The Market Manager then sent out an email at 8.30pm Sunday night to say the market was cancelled. Did he/she really expect  all the traders to be sat checking their computers on Sunday night? Or have these traders all been making so much money that they can afford email phones!!!!! Was it was too much trouble for the Market Manager to telephone every trader? Well obviously it was, because it didn’t happen. But I want to
know why not?

What about the physical work the traders had already had to do to get themselves and their stock organised for Easter Monday? Vegetables had been picked, cakes baked, sausages made and some extra animals killed. To prepare produce takes planning and that is  not something that can be achieved in 5 minutes, some traders have to plan a week ahead. Then my concern moves to the locals who had possibly decided not to do a huge supermarket shop over the weekend knowing that their market would be
operating as usual on Monday. Local shoppers supporting local producers, isn’t this how it should happen?

If the Market Manager is going to continue flapping about Health & Safety procedures, then why not close the road as normal every week? Newport has the legal signs and cones, so that’s not a problem and then any traders that wish to trade in inclement weather, have the ability to do. Traders could also bring their own stands, so that would also save you a job, wouldn’t it? What I saw on Easter Monday morning, was a few determined traders running around Newport trying to find somewhere to trade from.

The more I think about this cancellation, the more puzzled I am. What difference does it make to that ‘wise’ Market Manger who decided to cancel this Easter Monday market, what did the wind and rain matter to them? Unless he/she had simply decided they’d just rather not work at all. If it’s a windy, wet day the people that are taking the risk are the traders, no-one else. If the weather deters locals attending, then obviously traders’ takings will be down, but the traders will have already paid for their stands so where is the loss for Newport? Does the Market Manager get paid regardless whether a market is run or not?

I know I’m not alone, that weekly markets are well accepted by locals and they do like the ability to do their shopping locally each and every week, it really is that simple. I wonder how many people like me decided to take the opportunity to visit a Monday or Friday market that they can only visit on this Bank Holiday?

The organisers must be loyal and supportive to the traders and the local people – goodness knows how much trade was lost through the  holiday makers that were about. I hope the Market Manager issues an apology to those poor traders who lost out big time on Easter Monday and my congratulations to those few traders who decided to trade anyway.

I’m sure some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will keep me updated about Newport.

 

 
 

What Progress Nearly Four Years On?

04 Apr

In July 2008 Ian and I were asked to attend a meeting in Aberystwyth with a couple of Wag personnel and a representative from the Tourism Partnership Mid Wales, to give them some help about Welsh food. Our time was of course given on a voluntary
basis………………….

Not sure if this will interest, annoy or irritate you further. So when you have time, go through them and let me know what
progress we’ve made. It’s disappointing to say the least, that in my view not a great deal in nearly four years on. I couldn’t even guesstimate the amount of money Wag (Food) has had pumped in from Europe or as where it has gone and supposedly
achieved either.

1. Sourcing – lack of knowledge within the hospitality sector of where to source certain produce.

2. No joined up thinking.

3. Local Food Talks programme has ticked the box but there is more work to be done.

4. Some producers are not very professional in their set up. They  attend ‘Farmers Markets’ etc. but are ‘lifestyle producers’       and do not have any follow on information for the ‘consumer’, i.e. business cards, brochures, websites.

5. Food Festivals – tighter control is needed on the producers that are present – some are not from Wales.

6. WAG staff should be present at food festivals.

7. Those producers that receive training through any public sector programme should be regularly reviewed.

8. Growing – start up food sector companies struggle with the ‘red tape’ with little public sector support.

9.  No joined up thinking between WAG and councils with regards to promotion of food events. There were no signs for Pwllheli, food festival this year as the local council were not supportive of them being erected.

  1. Press releases – publicity for food events can be done through a wide variety of media sources including
    Welsh Country magazine. But we receive very few press releases from food festivals.

11. Builth event – Showcase – to cold and impersonal, not enough networking by the public sector bodies attending.

12. Smaller informal networking opportunities for the hospitality sector – hotels and similar establishments need to work together on sourcing and delivery issues.

13. Grant schemes – tighter controls are needed on where those receiving grants spend the money – more emphasis and tighter controls need to be in place to ensure that they source as much as possible form within Wales.

  1. WAG – sourcing of goods and services should be more within Wales.

15. More use needs to be made of ‘good speakers’ to take forward the message on local food sourcing.

16. More opportunities for networking and sharing of good practice amongst food producers – isolation a large issue for small producers.

17. Ceredigion Chamber of Commerce poor turnout at meetings – there is a need for ‘business’ clubs for food / tourism businesses to facilitate and support networking opportunities.

18. Businesses are de-motivated – apathy within the industry.

19. Messages and feedback on the ‘food issue’ not getting through to the minister.

  1. Pubs – cafes’ a possible grading scheme could work, however advice for businesses on branding and promotion would help.

21. Good customer service is key to the success of the industry.

22. Staff who have good product and area knowledge are key to the success of any establishment.

23. Hospitality businesses should be asked ‘what they expect when on holiday’ to highlight the perceived gaps in the sector within Wales.

24. Knowing your market is key to the success of any business.

25. Visit Wales grading system is not fair – logic does not seem to apply.

26. Producers could market their produce and cafés and restaurants could promote their goods by ‘taste and sell’ events.

27. For good all round feedback, use ‘secret shoppers’ at different times of the day.

28. Food festivals and events do not provide seating for visitors on an informal basis, i.e. there is nowhere to sit and eat the food being sold.

29. WAG – PR needs to be wider – True Taste is not a recognised brand, better / clearer marketing is needed.

30. Getting producers to work closer with the hospitality sector and ensuring that the producers recognise how key these markets are to them even if they are True Taste winners.

31. No joined up approach from within WAG – food and tourism need to work closer.

 

 

 

 

 
 

Festival Listing Is ‘Imminent’

03 Apr

But let’s not hold our breath!

I’m being told that to answer concerned food festivals organisers  questions as to  when this list will be sent out they’ve been told it’s imminent – well literally  bully for you wag.  I’m going to ask this question of wag, but realise how pointless it is, have you any idea how worried many of the organisers are? Or do you care? Of course you don’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be so unhelpful to these
people who are running YOUR food festivals and help you keep your jobs.

You keep sending the organisers emails saying your listing is imminent, and all they can do is still and stress whilst they wait and wait…………………

If your list is imminent, then it’s supposed to be about to happen, so why on earth can’t you just be courteous and tell those who are ringing Aber just what ‘imminent’ actually means.  I really hope you are getting as many, if not more calls than I am on this topic, so that I’m not the only one who’s totally fed-up of it. The only difference between us on this one, is that this is your delay, this is your doing – because actually you’re the one in control!

W/c 19th March you said this list would be available, but here we are rapidly approaching Easter and still no news. Hopefully you are not going to try and copy a UK Government tactic and try to bury bad news in this holiday period. This is something welshfoodbites has a particular interest in as you lot well know.

As has already been commented on by others, thank goodness wag’s not trying to run a business, or as one producer said to me this morning on the phone, if they’d a business to run, it would have been run into the ground years ago.

Oh dear wag, another own goal even when it’s your football.

I have to ask myself why many of these organisers bother helping you put on these festivals when you treat them with such contempt and rudeness.

 

 
 

National Trust Appear To Be Upsetting Our Producers

03 Apr

I’ve not had many dealings with the National Trust, but have always admired the job they are doing in preserving our heritage and their on-going work for conservation and preservation.

However, what has disturbed me of late is getting feedback from quite a few producers, who initially and understandably chuffed to bits getting their produce stocked in National Trust, (NT) properties and shops are now not so pleased. The reason is money or to be precise the new payment terms from the National Trust. I’ve been told that any producer delivering and the invoicing the NT on 15th April would only be paid by the 30th June, that is payment at the end of the month following the invoice, but it may take 10 working days to process the invoice. Gosh how convenient for them.

I’m horrified by this, as I had, naively it now seems, to have this image of the NT as a fair company, on a par with the likes of John Lewis, a business you could trust. Not like one of the big four supermarkets who can make their suppliers literally jump through hoops rather than pay them promptly. If suppliers are forced to wait such a long time for their money, I’m disgusted. I’ll wait to be told my information is wrong and NT pay all their suppliers within 30 days – if not before! Another supplier not impressed with NT is one who has been waiting months, and months and months and months, to get some lines accepted and have been run around in circles, with still no decision.

I also hear of small companies having issues working in National Trust properties with planning delays and people having extended leave with no cover in their absence. Well this is a sad situation but my sympathies is of course to our producers.

I know from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers how tough their life is and they really don’t need slow payers to add to their worries.

Many visitors come to Wales and to tour a historic house or castle is very much a part of their holiday experience. Whilst doing this they love to shop either for themselves or for a gift to take back home and its here where our Welsh food producers can fit the
bill. A gift of honey, jam, chutney, cheese, local beer or cider makes the perfect present. But if the news I’ve had through is accurate, then I can see many producers having no alternative but to stop supplying the NT and to look for other markets. Now this would be sad, obviously not just for our producers, but for the NT to have thrown away the opportunity to showcase local food from our artisan producers and offer our visitors some home grown treats. Our visitors don’t need to be offered gifts, knick knacks or tat made in China, Japan or Korea, for goodness sake offer them a selection of what is made here in Wales and be proud of that very fact – support our food producers please!!!