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Archive for August, 2012

Welsh Government Food Staff Change

28 Aug

After a very gossipy week – the phone and emails have been red hot, the gossip has officially been confirmed – here it is in full:

A brief note to let you know that I will be moving to work in the office of the Welsh Language Commissioner before the end of September. I have worked with many of you for over a decade on many programmes and initiatives within the food and drink industry in Wales. It has been a challenging but successful time and I’m sure that the sector will remain both vibrant and competitive in the future.

Best Wishes
Wynfford James.

This news has been circulated to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and other interested Welsh Country advertisers.

From what I ‘hear’ huge changes are strong possibility. However all I can do is await further official news, who has moved, where and why. Just hope I’ll be informed!!!! Rest assured when I know, you’ll know.

Contrary to further rumours I am not running a book as to who takes over Head of Welsh Food!!!! The role of Director Of Rural Affairs is also I believe vacant, might these two roles be combined? Form the outside it seems a massive opportunity to have a complete shake up. Whether this will be for the better, we can only cross our fingers and hope ………………………..is that scary or what?

 
 

Possible Good News About Pembrokeshire Produce Direct?

27 Aug

A great deal of work has been going on behind the scenes trying to resolve the many issues and problems that have been facing the PPD project. Hopefully, if my grapevine is working well, then maybe some much needed changes can bring this project back onto an even keel and give our producers the much needed distribution chain  that they need.

I congratulate those producers that have taken an active part in exploring different avenues to rescue this scheme, instead of those that have sat back and moaned that it isn’t working, but then done nothing to help…………………… There comes a time guys when you have to stand up and be counted and this was certainly one of those occasions.

As soon as more up-to-date and accurate news is received in our office it will be posted.

 
 

Welsh Government Food Staff Changes?

27 Aug

Rumours abound this Bank Holiday weekend about possibility of staff changes at our Welsh Government food department. Until these rumours are confirmed or denied then we’ll just have to keep our grapevine working and wait patiently as always for an official government communication.

 
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Welsh Food Festivals And The Enviromental Health

17 Aug

I’ve had an email from a professional producer with attachments from the Monmouthshire Enviromental Health, EH, in relation to Abergavenny Food Festival. There were six attachments including: trade letter, 2012 Advice Leaflet Stallholders, questionnaire, check list, list of cleaning products, plus a temp records sheet. I’m assuming that all these six documents have to be completed for each event attended, but then do traders simply complete one set and scan of photocopy them through for the rest of the year? Otherwise isn’t there a way that this system can be simplified to make life easier for traders without them having to jump through too many environmental hoops? I do understand that EH have to tick endless boxes to keep the public safe, but if this system can be made easier, then that in itself is a huge step forward on the efficiency ladder.

I have the same opinion about the application form for festivals, surely this could be standardised to create a general form because the same questions are going to be asked for each event. The producers then can just complete one form per year and again scan or photocopy it each time they apply for a tradestand. If festivals then have their own ‘quirks’ then they can send a separate form, which surely will not be that long. Please let’s try to make our traders lives easier as very few of them have the luxury of a PA or an Admin person sitting, waiting to fill in more and more forms. Any hope that wag be thinking about making the traders’ paperwork any simpler?

 

 

 
 

Welsh Food Festivals Monitoring & Evaluation

13 Aug

I was told during my visit to the Really Wild Food Festival on 28th July that two people from Welsh Government (Food) were in attendance. When  Ian and I checked this out, that wasn’t true, the people quizzing the producers were in fact employed by Miller Research. In any case they were not badged up and the implication was that they were actually from the government.  So to clarify what precisely was going on I sent some questions through under the Freedom Of Information Act, Reference ATISN 6298. Follows are questions and response shown in full:

1.   The total cost of the tender submission.

2.   Clarification that Miller Research will be attending the 33 Welsh Government funded festivals.

3.   Clarification that the tender submission the Welsh Government required for this work.

4.   What organisations within the Government framework were invited to tender.

I am enclosing some of the information you requested, attached as Annex 1.  I have concluded, however, that some of the information you have requested is exempt from disclosure under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Information accessible to applicant by other means). If you know where to look – Kath.

ANNEX 1

1.    The total cost of the tender submission is £42,301.25 (ex VAT).  This includes all costs to attend Food Festivals, producing individual reports for each Festival attended and a final report looking at the Food Festival Grant Support as a whole.

2.    Miller Research will be attending 32 of the 33 Welsh Government funded food festivals. Miller Research was unable to attend the Gorseinon Food and Drink Festival because of the timings of the tender submission and the awarded outcome.

Specification for the Monitoring and Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government

The successful contractor, now known as Miller Research, must develop simple reporting forms to record site visits.

The visit will culminate in a report of activity assessing performance against the criteria set for all Food and Drink Festivals. Ensuring organisers are compliant to the grant support offered by the Welsh Government.

Individual written reports will be expected of each Festival visited, there will be a need to be objective, consistent, robust, concise and vigilant at all times to ensure fair assessment of each is undertaken.

FMDD (Food, Market & Development Division) require a clear measurement of the Grant Offer provided to each Festival against the criteria set and the application form submitted. In addition to this measurement FMDD would like the following evaluated:

Sustainable Strategies – would the Festival continue without FMDD support?

Is the event considered to be an exemplar to the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?

Quality of the event Involvement of the local business community Involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers?

Number of Food & Drink Producers and who these producers are, including numbers of Welsh Producers Confirmation that the Festival organisers had used the Welsh Government financial contribution in the manner outlined in their application.

Miller Research will need to complete an Annual Report based on site visits undertaken during this financial year as well as information which has been supplied by festival organisers. This report will need to measure the impact of the Grant Support as a whole and the effects should the Grant Support cease. The evaluation will need to focus on the Support provided by Welsh Government and whether it should continue and clear rationales provided. 

3.    For the organisations within the Government framework which were invited to tender, I have concluded that the information is exempt from disclosure under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Information accessible to applicant by other means).  The tender document lists the organisations which were invited to tender and can be easily accessed via an internet search. 

I hope that those of you regularly attending festivals now have a better idea of Wag’s latest ‘effort’ to supposedly help food festivals. Far be it for me to take any credit for this happening, but it is something I have mentioned on a regular basis for the last four of five years!!!! Although I haven’t been told so yet, I’m sure Miller Research will be thrilled to bits with me finding them more work with wag. I can only suggest you read what wag are supposed to be looking for on this latest visitation of their food festivals and you get your points and views across. You can then keep your fingers crossed that your views will eventually get put in front of wag, discussed and acted upon and that nothing will be lost in translation, if you understand me…………

Although I will still be attending some wag funded food festivals, I will no longer be blogging about them. My view being that I’d hate to hinder, or maybe even more importantly, help Miller Research any further with their latest job of wag food work.

 
 

Recently Held Welsh Dairy & Welsh Food Summits – List Of Invitees

08 Aug

I asked Wag for a list of invitees and was told I couldn’t have it due to Data Protection. When I interviewed the Deputy Minister Alun Davies, I again asked for a list of invitees and was given the same response.

It seemed silly, pathetic and pointless to keep secret who Wag had decided to invite to these summits. So not to be put off and following my journalistic instinct I decided the only other option open to me was yet another Freedom Of Information question. Time, Waste Of  – please re-arrange at your leisure.

However a reply has been received today under Reference  6283. I think this will be of interest to you, so their reply follows in full. This has also been sent around all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers.

A list of businesses and organisations invited to both the Dairy and Food Summits.

The information you have requested is detailed below:

 

Companies and Organisations Invited to the Food Summit

Adventa Leslie A Parsons   & Sons Limited
ASDA Levercliff   Associates Ltd
Baraka Foods Llanllyr Water   Company
Blas ar Fwyd Llwynhelyg Farm Shop
Calon Wen Miller Research
Cambrian Training   Company National Botanic Garden of Wales
Cardiff University National Farmers Union (Cymru)
Carmarthenshire Cheese Company Elizabeth Finn Care
Carmarthenshire County Council National Trust Wales
Caws Cenarth   Cheese Ltd Panini’s
CFFI Cymru Pembrokeshire County Council
Cks Supermarket Pennard Stores
CountryLandand Business Owners Association Princes Gate Springwater Ltd
Countryside Council forWales Pub is the Hub
Cwmcerrig Farm Rachels Organic Dairy Ltd
D Gibbons & Son Ltd Randall Parker Foods
Ecostudio Riverside Community Market
Environment AgencyWales Royal Welsh Agricultural Society
F3 Soil Association
Fairtrade St Merryn Food Group
FBA Group The Authentic Curry Co Ltd
Federation of City Farms andCommunity Gardens The Drovers Rest
Federation of Community Farms & City Gardens The Hurns Brewing Company Ltd
First Milk Cheese Co Ltd Tillery Valley Foods Ltd
Food and Farming Sector Panel Tir Coed
Food Technology Centre Total Food Marketing/Menter a Busnes
Franks Ice Cream Limited Tregroes Waffles
Garden Organic Trioni Ltd
Gower View Foods Ltd Ty Nant
Howel Food Consultancy Volac
Hybu Cig Cymru Wales Cooperative Centre
IBERS at Aberystwyth University Welsh Local Government Association
Improve Welsh Perry and Cider Society
Lantra Wales Womans Food and Farming Union

 

 

Companies and Organisations Invited to the Dairy Summit

Asda Iceland
Calon Wen Lantra
Carmarthenshire Cheese Company Ltd Llaeth Cymraeg
Castell Howell Milk Link, Lladyrnog Creamery
Coleg Menai Morrisons
Coleg Sir Gar National Farmers Union (Cymru)
Co-op OMSCo
Dairy Crest Proper Welsh
Dairy Industry Steering Group Rachels Organic Dairy Ltd
Dairy UK Sainsbury’s
Dairy Co South Caernarfon Creameries
Defra (Dairy Policy) Subzero
First Milk Tesco
Food and Farming Sector Panel Tomlinson’s Dairy
Food Centre Horeb Trioni Ltd
Food Technology   Centre Ty Tanglwyst Dairy
Forte’s Ice Cream UWIC
Frank’s Ice Cream Ltd Volac
Farmers Union of Wales Waitrose
Hybu Cig Cymru Wisemans
Llaeth Y Llan Zero2Five
 
 

A Guide To Food Festival Organisers

01 Aug

I’m sure this listing and suggestions will provide much food for thought. Hopefully this will provide improvements for the future. Our team is always in regular contact and conversation with our Best Of Welsh & Borders, BOW, producers. Usually the topics are boringly, and annoyingly the same, year after year and do of course relate to festivals as these are so important to our producers and to showcase our fabulous Welsh produce. Yet going over the same ground is not productive and it shows issues are not being addressed, which is not what either side needs. Now one producer has taken the time and the trouble, bitten the bullet, and put some thoughts down for me and for all those involved in the world of Welsh food.

So here we go on things a festival organiser may like to think about!

Before the event

1. When sending out invitations and literature for your festival to prospective producers, try and make it friendly. OK, there have to be rules, but do not pounce on them straight away! Some festival application forms read more like a rule book than an invitation!

2. Please try and include the date of the festival on the literature, and a return address.  This may sound silly, but quite often this vital information is missing! You know when the festival is planned and your address, but the producer may not!

3. Include the selection criteria. Are you looking within a certain area for producers? What will you do if you have 15 producers of cup cakes returning their forms?

4. How many people will be allowed to cook fresh products? Experience shows that 10% of your total stall allocation is about right, which means that those producers can make a living. This rough ratio goes for each type of produce too.

5. Include plans on how and where you are going to advertise. From the producers’ point of view, they may have the best products in the world, but if only a few people come to the festival because no one knew it was happening, this can be the end of the producers business. They are there to make money to keep their businesses viable and of course it has cost them money to be there.

6. Set a realistic stall fee. By charging a lot, you will only get the larger end of the producers, missing out on some artisan and unique products.

7. If you have to, ask for a deposit of the stall fee. Asking for the full amount months before the festival, especially in a producers’ quiet period (January to April) puts a huge stress on the producers’ cash flow. Bear in mind that producers could be looking to attend a number of festivals, and paying fees can amount to £1,000’s at a lean time of the year. This may be why you are getting enquiries for stall space a few weeks before the festival. Producers are not trying to be awkward; they sometimes just cannot afford the fees!

8. Tell the producer when the fee will be cashed. Some festivals cash the cheques when they arrive and some months later, causing cash flow problems and grovelling meetings with bank managers – those that still have one!

9. When selecting prospective stall holders, check them out! Do they really produce what they are selling, or are they buying it in at the local “cash and carry” and tarting it up for resale?  Are they registered with the EHO?  This also covers you for Trading Standards.

10. When you have made your selection, try and send a message to the producer welcoming them to the festival, and informing them that further information will be sent before the festival date.

11. A map of the stall location is vital, at least a week before the festival if possible. We all know the best places and the worst places and it helps if we can stock our stalls to reflect our site. This not only helps negate any loss, it also means fewer products will be thrown away. Bear in mind a meat producer has probably taken an animal or two to the abattoir a couple of weeks before the festival in order for the meat to be prepared at the right time. Bakers and the like also need to get an idea of how much fresh food to prepare.

12. If the site of a producers stall is not level, tell the producer, so they can bring blocks to level their table and not constantly be catching goods slipping off the end of the table.

13. Now advertise, advertise, advertise. Social media is cheap. Ask the local paper for an ‘advertorial’. Use the local free newspapers and journals. Advertise on the tourism web sites. Issue a press release, or maybe two, to get momentum going. Tweet, Facebook, anything to get your message out there!

14.  Have a web site, with location, list of producers, even a competition! Link this to Twitter, Facebook etc. Research has shown most people use the web to find information before other media.

15. Get the local community involved, maybe a theme for the shop windows, with a prize.  Visitors to the festival will then have a better overall experience. 16. Signs as you drive in should be bold, and visible from any direction. Why not ask the local primary school to paint signs?

On the Day

17. On the day of the festival, and I know you will be running round sorting out problems, but try and have someone to greet the producer, preferably with a smile, and make sure that they know where their stall is. Have the pitches clearly marked. Very often, the stalls have ‘crept’ and the end stall ends up with 2 foot instead of 3 metres.

18. If generators are allowed, please check that they are quiet, as requested. Standing two feet from a next door traders’ noisy smelly generator does not enhance a producer experience, or appeal to their customers.

19. Make sure the main festival generator is up to the job. So many festivals are slightly marred by the sound of gnashing of teeth when the ice cream is melting because the generator has failed for the 3rd time. Yes, I know you ask for the power needs and some do not tell the truth. But do allow for the odd untruth!

20. If at all possible, do not face meat and chocolate stalls directly into the sun; it’s commonsense really, but often ignored or forgotten.

21. Make sure there is a loo within short dashing distance! Some stalls are manned by just one person, who has to have a very strong bladder at some festivals!

22. If you are providing stalls, please could the canvas be clean? Usually products are beautifully presented, then marred by being surrounded by something that looks like it has been playing rugby!

23. It would be lovely if occasionally the Chefs found the produce to cook actually at the festival! Why not email the list of producers attending to them so that give some thought to waht they might cook? It would also be pleasant if the Chefs and the VIP who opens the festival actually walked round and met some of the producers, but this very rarely happens.

24. Music really enhances a festival. But if you are having live music, make sure it is not too loud, so that customers do not have to shout their orders and producers do not have to lip read. It should be background music until trading has ended, not the main event! For those who do not have live music, hire a PA system and play gentle music over this. It is surprising how this pulls the whole festival together and creates a great atmosphere. But if you are playing a tape, please have more than 3 tunes recorded, unless you want producers to be zombies by the end of the day!

25. Most festivals have a ‘best stall’ prize, which is a good idea. Yet I have yet to attend a festival where there is a ‘best customer service’ prize, but a quick walk round, and looking at customer faces, seeing where customers are smiling or laughing, would be a good idea.

26. Have somewhere for customers to sit and eat, chat and watch the festival, not too near the live music!

27. Have plenty of litter bins and it helps if someone just walks round picking up the odd bits. Utilise local scouts and guides maybe.

28. A feedback form is commonly asked to be filled for the grant aid, but how about making your own feedback form asking for constructive ideas for the future festivals. Producers are festival experts, attending a range of sizes and types of festivals – tap into this expertise, you may come up with a winning idea.

Now please remember this has been written from a professional producers’ point of view. So in the interest of fair play I’d love feedback or a similar list from the festival organisers’ point of view, that would be welcome; after all, we both need each other to make a successful festival.

If any organisers would like to give their comments – I shall certainly post it for you. You have no need to name your festival if you’d prefer not to and trust me this will not happen!!

We are all supposed to be working together, but sadly it is not always the case. Could this be a way to help each other and reduce hassle on both sides? Let’s hope so…….