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Archive for March, 2014

Update Food Policy Evaluation

31 Mar

People are still asking my view on the above, so perhaps it’s worthwhile if I do my own brief evaluation. We were summoned in 2010 to give our opinions on the Government’s proposed 10 year food plan. We told them there and then that a 10 year plan would not work and we suggested a five year plan, but we were either ignored or over ruled, the result was the same. The government went their own sweet way, planning food for ten years. There’s little satisfaction in us being proved right, with no idea how much money has been thrown at this 10 year plan or has been wasted but more importantly many of us were furious about being ignored.

Ignoring food producers when they give their time freely, has in my view damaged the industry, certainly at micro level. But now along with True Taste, wag food have dumped their 10 year plan and off we go again with another 4 meetings held across Wales. The difference this time is these meetings were all scheduled and held during the day, which is perfect for Quangos and we all know Wales has more than it’s fair share of those! But what no-one in wag food appears to have given a single thought to, is how many producers can afford to take at least half a day off and drive to their nearest meetings? I’ve no idea why this never occurred to them, to me it’s obvious, but then I haven’t got the luxury of a salary dropping into my bank each month regardless! Micro producers for some reason don’t seem important to wag and I think many micro food businesses have the chance of growing giving the right support. Seemingly this does not appear to be on wag food’s agenda. Fifty micro producers could easily be helped to employ one person per company – that’s 50 people in employment and learning a trade that Wales needs.

However to try and prove my theory, I’ve asked for lists of attendees to each of the 4 public meetings. My request was refused on the grounds of Data Protection. We understand about 30 people on average attended each meeting, which is pretty poor in my book. Then Ian was told that only 77 responses in total were received. We understand that wag food have 900+ producers listed, so I find this appalling.

How did wag food contact everyone involved in food so they were aware of this feedback? Or did they just not bother apart from posting on their website? Apparently at one of the meetings a further seminar was requested which was held last Tuesday at the Royal Showground in Builth Wells. All 77 that sent in feedback were invited, which included Ian and I, but then I was told by the press office that I could attend, but would have to leave after the Minister’s speech, charming! Ian and I then spent ages emailing and phoning to eventually be told on Monday that we could attend, but had to ensure everyone knew we were press, how annoying and pathetic. I would have thought the press office would know by now that Welsh Country is bi-monthly and I was not going to be reporting on something that has not been decided. Plus our editorial policy is to support our advertisers and wag food are not yet back working with us, so there will be no coverage in the magazine, in anyway. Welsh food of course continues to be important to us and we do like to know what is going on, journalists are nosey creatures by nature, hence we thought we’d take valuable time out from our day jobs and attend.

Well to sign in and be given badges for Welsh Country Foods, not Welsh Country magazine, was not a good start, but just as well that as usual we’d already got our own badges on. As expected, the shiny suits and shoes abound as Welsh Quangos were out in force again. Ian and I stayed only for the morning session as we were off to Countryside Alliance Awards, but we only knew of one other food producer in attendance. I could well be wrong on that, but certainly not by much, as Quangos dominated for sure. To be paid to attend and collect your mileage is certainly an incentive, but that’s an incentive most food producers haven’t got and that’s a fact that wag food, sadly seem to have ignored. But the bottom line is that without our Welsh food producers, our many and varied Quangos would not exist.

Of course there was a question of anonymity or lack of from the notes from wag which I posted about in December and that cannot have helped this situation. Wag food will never tell me who has responded, but I suspect that every Welsh Quango related to food will have, without a doubt, responded. Which means the picture wag food has been given to me is blurred and not accurate of our food industry.

I’m extremely disappointed that I’ll not get a breakdown of the 77 respondents, but also disappointed that much of our industry couldn’t be bothered. If I was wag food I’d want to know why, but to save them puzzling, as many of them read welshfoodbites.co.uk, they’ll know that they’ve not re-established any trust, especially with micro producers. We circulated wag food’s draft action plan around our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and posted it on welshfoodbites.co.uk, although it’s certainly not our job to do so, but I’m sure wag food are grateful for our support!!! I emphasised that it was irrelevant how fed-up food producers were with wag food, feeling they were always ignored by them, but that this proposal, when finalised, will define Welsh food for the next six years. Despite my pleas, many of you still refused to participate and send your thoughts and views through to wag, although I think some did saying they’d no trust in wag food, so they were not prepared to waste mot of their time. Some said the feedback form was too complicated and that you didn’t feel it applied that much to you and your business. I can accept that, but only up to a point. You could just have easily put an email together and given them your opinion, telling them what’s right, what’s wrong, what you want changing and why. That is surely not too tough to get your voice heard.

Anyway the consultation is closed, you’ve missed the boat and I’m still unhappy with only 77 responses. But if you are not one of those 77 who did respond, please don’t dare give me a hard time moaning about festivals and markets, distribution, problems accessing grants, staffing, lack of communication from wag food etc. etc. this was your opportunity to raise these points with the civil servants that are paid to work for you, the people that can make your life easier or harder…………………………………………………………!!

 

 

 
 

Rural Hero Award

27 Mar

Please don’t take this post as my blowing my own trumpet, far from it, but I must use this post to thank all of you that took the time and trouble to nominate me. I know, probably better than most, how busy and stressed your lives are and for you to add an extra job to your to-do list is not what you need! But apparently many of you did just that and all I can say is a heart-felt thanks to you all. But this is certainly not my award, it’s for Ian Mole and our Welsh Country team because they’re all as passionate about Welsh produce as I am!! I don’t feel comfortable being called a ‘hero’ that’s for our guys and gals putting their lives on the line fighting for our country. I think perhaps Rural Rebel is more appropriate for me!!!

But thank you so much, doilch yn fawr iwn.

Follows is a quick summary for you:

The Countryside Alliance Awards (aka “Rural Oscars”) were presented to the cream of Welsh rural enterprise at The Senedd, on Tuesday 25th March, propelling the winners across four categories into the UK & Northern Ireland final.

Rachel Evans Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, kindly sponsored by Assembly Members Antoinette Sandbach, Keith Davies, Llyr Gruffydd, and William Powell and awards were presented by Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner. Kath was delighted to be honoured with a Rural Hero award.

Rachel commented, “I start with a lady who is passionate about Welsh Food and is has worked tirelessly to support food producers from across Wales. Her dedication, devotion and determination to the production and promotion of local Welsh foods fully deserves to be championed as it is evident from the many nominations that food producers across Wales put forward, as they want to champion her commitment and to thank Kath Rhodes for her work. No stranger to Welsh Government, Kath is continuously knocking on the doors of power here in the Bay, making sure that the voice of foodies across Wales is heard. Asking the occasional difficult question and continuously striving towards the best possible promotion for Welsh produce she is the original food hero. I am very pleased to award a special “Rural Hero Award” to Kath Rhodes of Welsh Country Magazine”.

So once again my thanks for all your nominations and to Rachel and her hard-working team for all their efforts in promoting the rural scene and rural businesses. Ian and I did make the most of the opportunity to catch up with those Assembly Members attending but I must say I searched but was unable to find any Labour Members there. Actually I was hoping that Minister Alun Davies could have attended and presented some awards. Although he was late appearing, Minister Davies did manage to attend and speak at the fifth Food Action Plan meeting at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells that morning, as Ian and I did but although I’m told he headed back into Cardiff after that, he was obviously too busy to support the Countryside Alliance Awards night which took only about an hour in total. I must say I found his no-show, disappointing, but we had a brilliant night despite the Minister’s absence!!!

 
 

And the Welsh Rural Oscars go to………..

27 Mar

Follows is the press release from Countryside Alliance Awards which I’m delighted to show in full:

The Countryside Alliance Awards (aka “Rural Oscars”) were presented to the cream of Welsh rural enterprise at The Senedd, on Tuesday 25th March, propelling the winners across four categories into the UK & Northern Ireland final.

The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through our small hard-working businesses. The Welsh Champions were presented with red plaques at the prestigious event, and two Rural Heroes were also honoured for their contribution to rural life in Wales.

The Countryside Alliance’s Director for Wales, Rachel Evans, introduced the Awards at the reception which was kindly sponsored by Assembly Members Antoinette Sandbach, Keith Davies, Llyr Gruffydd, and William Powell. Rachel announced the winners in bronze, silver and gold positions and recipients were presented with their awards by Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner:

Local Food Category

Champion: Old Stables Tea Room, Bear Street, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, Powys.

Rachel told the audience: “The commitment to local produce, hard work and determination to succeed oozes out of this family run business. When Rachel and Mike Carnell decide to re-open her aunt’s tea rooms their first day’s takings were a mere £21 and they wondered what on earth they had committed themselves to. Now The Old Stables Tea Rooms is a jewel in the crown of Hay on Wye with a delicious home grown and home cooked menu that is savoured by the locals and thousands of tourists annually. Produce for the kitchen is either grown by family and friends or surplus harvests from customers, coupled with meat and breads produced locally within a seven mile radius. Home-made cakes, jams, chutneys and Welsh speciality dishes are at the heart of this enterprise with 99% of the menu produce in the tea rooms. Food made with passion and served with pride. With an ethos of “perfection consists of not in doing extraordinary things but in doing ordinary things extraordinary well” I am delighted to say that the winners of this category are The Old Stables Tea Rooms, Hay on Wye.”

Silver: Mon ar Lwy, Ty’n Rallt, Trefdraeth, Bodorgan, Sir Ynys Mon.

Bronze: The Baker’s Table Cafe and Bakery, The Mill House, The Square, Talgarth, Powys.

Bronze: Bodnant Welsh Foods, Furnace Farm, Tal y Cafn, Conwy,

Village Shop/ Post Office Category

Champion: Morley House (Llangoed Post Office), 1 Menai View Terrace, Llangoed, Beaumaris, Sir Ynys Mon

Rachel gave the following citation: “The winning Village Shop and Post Office has been under the same attentive ownership for fifty years. Morley House is a traditional village shop providing an over the counter service. It is incredibly well stocked for a small shop, stocking an exceptional range of goods from groceries to ironmongery and pharmaceuticals, not forgetting of course the post office counter. The shop has developed over the years, stocking more items and keeping up with trends, yet hasn’t lost the personal touch.

Gareth Wynne Pritchard plays an indispensable role in safeguarding the future of the community. He invariably goes far beyond what can reasonably be expected of any one individual to cater for the varying needs of his customers. His generosity and kindness know no bounds whatsoever. Gareth has an exceptionally endearing personality, always displaying a genuine interest in, and concern for, each and every one of his customers. Gareth has unrivalled knowledge of the area, its attractions and its inhabitants. He sources local produce whenever possible, thus supporting farmers and growers, including individuals with severe disabilities who are part of a community gardening scheme. Mae gen I pleser mawr I rhoi gwobr am y siop pentref a swyddfa post orau, I am very pleased indeed to award the best village siop and post office Award to Gareth Wynne Pritchard of Morley House Anglesey.”

Silver: Pwllglas Village Shop, Neuadd Bentref Pwllglas Village Hall, Pwllglas, Ruthin, Denbighshire.

Bronze: Newport Post Office, Long Street, Newport, Pembrokeshire.

Butcher Award

Champion: Rhug Estate & Farm Shop, Rhug Estate, Corwen, Denbighshire

Rachel told the reception: “The Gold Award in this category goes to a butchery that has expanded to supply not only their on-site farm shop and restaurant but also some of the best Chefs from all over the world. Adding a first class cutting plant has enabled the business to expand and to utilise the estates organic meat to its very best advantage, ensuring sustainability not just for the butchery section but for the estate as a whole, securing jobs for the locality and an outlet for the farmed stock. Rhug organic farm supplies the butchery with Aberdeen Angus Beef, Welsh Lamb, Salt Marsh Lamb, Pork, Chicken, Turkeys, Geese, Game and Bison; as well as a wide selection of innovative gourmet pies and pates. I am delighted to ask Barney to present the Gold Award to the winner of this category, Lord Newborough of Rhug Estate Corwen.”

Silver: C J Gibbons, 28 Castle Street, Hay on Wye, Powys.

Bronze: Valley Butchers, Old Magistrates Court, Station Road, Holyhead, Sir Ynys Mon.

Bronze: J Williams and Co Butchers, 124A Vale Street, Denbigh, Denbighshire.

Champion: nom nom chocolate, Llansteffan, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire

Rachel announced the winner as follows: “Here we have a business that seems to have chosen the creator, rather than the creator choosing the business. This budding and very young entrepreneur seemed destined to make chocolate. He grew up next to a Cadbury’s factory In Bournville and had his very own chocolate shop in the cupboard under the stairs. When the family moved to Wales he found himself living opposite the only chocolate farm in Britain. The chocolate seemed to be chasing him…………. The company began in a dusty old caravan at the bottom of his mum’s garden but thankfully quickly progressed to a purpose built kitchen in Llansteffan. Now, as the finishing touches are made to the new development, the business is really taking off and supplies over 75 outlets and provides work for three full time “OOMPA LOOMPAS” – his words not mine!  The company ethos being flavour is king; trade honourably; a proper bar of chocolate is always wrapped in foil; Wales has flavour, remember that; and never make chocolate to bad music!!  I am delighted to announce that the winner of the business start-up category is Liam Burgess of NOMNOM chocolate.”

Silver Award: The Working Pet, Cilwg, Llandyfaelog, Kidwelly, Sir Gaerfyrddint

Bronze Award: Cambrian Safaris, Tanfelin, Llanafan, Aberystwyth, Sir Ceredigion.

Bronze Award: Pentwyn Welsh Tweed, Pentwyn, Myddfai, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire,

Rural Heroes

Rachel was also delighted to honour two Rural Heroes at the reception:

“I start with a lady who is passionate about Welsh Food and is has worked tirelessly to support food producers from across Wales. Her dedication, devotion and determination to the production and promotion of local Welsh foods fully deserves to be championed as it is evident from the many nominations that food producers across Wales put forward, as they want to champion her commitment and to thank Kath Rhodes for her work. No stranger to Welsh Government, Kath is continuously knocking on the doors of power here in the Bay, making sure that the voice of foodies across Wales is heard. Asking the occasional difficult question and continuously striving towards the best possible promotion for Welsh produce, she is the original food hero. I am very pleased to award a special “Rural Hero Award” to Kath Rhodes of Welsh Country Magazine.

And now on to the final award for this evening. This award goes to a very special hardworking lady who has an unswerving dedication to her community and is also a past Wales winner for the best local shop and post office. We received a record number of nominations for Myra Bowen.

Year in and year out, the Dingestow post office – run so cheerfully, so well, so kindly and so efficiently – continues to meet the needs of the local community. Selling produce such as fresh vegetables, fruits, sweets, dairy produce, alcohol, cheeses, household goods – even children’s toys – whilst also selling stamps, postal services, and organising dry cleaning and shoe mending. In fact, there is nothing that you cannot get. Everything is possible. And if it isn’t in today it most surely will be by tomorrow. Now behind this very successful lady is a thoroughly supportive husband and we recognise this evening the equal commitment that Haydn Bowen makes to the shop and the community. Running a rural business can be difficult, to do so smiling continually, as Myra and Haydn do, is the miracle which makes them not just a service but the heart and soul of our community. We are delighted this evening to present Myra Bowen of Dingestow Post Office with our Rural Hero Award”.

My heartfelt congratulations to all the winners. I’m just grateful and relieved that I didn’t have to judge those entries. How the C. A. team managed to get that tough job done just amazes me.

For those of you going forward to the UK & Northern Ireland finals in London, good luck and enjoy. Fingers crossed we’ll have lots of Welsh winners!

Finally my thanks to the Countryside Allicance team, in particular to Rachel and Jill, for putting on such a wonderful evening and highlighting the wonderful variety and high quality of Welsh businesses that do such an incredible job.

 

 

 
 

Oriel y Parc Café

18 Mar

Last Saturday we played catch up with some friends, meeting in Pembrokeshire at the Oriel y Parc Café which is situated within the Visitor Centre in St David’s.

Ian and I have called in here quite a few times and I’m pleased to say it’s always been a pleasure. The staff are so pleasant, friendly and smiley and the quality of the coffee is superb. So that’s my two vital boxes ticked!!!!

We didn’t have time to stay for lunch, but the food we saw being brought out looked very good indeed, so sure we’ll be back. For more details visit: www.orielparccafe.com

Whilst in St David’s we took the opportunity to call in and see Pauline and Angela who own and run Oriel-y-Felin Art Gallery which is in the centre of St David’s. I think it must be about four years since these two lovely ladies bought this place and the results are amazing. They’ve done a brilliant job re-vamping and re-vitalising this space, turning it into a vibrant gallery that has many original paintings, including from artist Pauline Beynon herself. There’s something for everyone in this gallery whether you are a serious collectors, a visitor or a local with a love of art for unique and affordable items. I doubt you’ll resist the temptations! Also available is the Collectorplan Scheme which is a great help if you’ve set your heart on something.

What I’ve always loved about this gallery is the variety of ceramics, glass and bronzes from local and invited artists. It always amazes me how many talented, artistic people there are. But if you have the nightmare task of having to buy a gift for someone who has everything, then call in a see Pauline and Angela, because I’m sure they’ll be able to solve your sticky situation or simply visit: www.oriel-y-felin.com

 
 

Minister’s Proposal A ‘Step Too Far’

11 Mar

Follows is a press release from NFU Cymru shown in full:

 Brecon and Radnor farmers have expressed their anger at Welsh Government proposals to change the way in which farmers are compensated for cattle slaughtered as a result of testing positive for bovine TB.

Members of NFU Cymru discussed this matter at a recent meeting held in Builth Wells. Brecon and Radnor NFU Cymru County Chairman, Stuart Morris said, “The consultation looks at moving from the current system whereby animals are valued individually to a system whereby the value of an animal is determined by reference to a table pre-populated with GB average livestock market sales data.

“Some of the comments within the Welsh Government document are quite insulting. In one place the document states that the current system ‘does not provide sufficient incentive for farmers to keep disease out of their herd’. This is an outrageous statement. Despite receiving compensation for slaughtered cattle following a positive test, farm businesses suffer a heavy financial burden having to bear the consequential losses from the shortfall in milk sales or blood lines from a herd breakdown as well as the cost of movement restrictions placed on affected farms. These costs are not compensated for and, in some cases, run into tens of thousands of pounds.”

Mr Morris continued, “Members present were absolutely against this proposed move away from the current system. Moving to a crude and imprecise system of an average tabular valuation will mean that poor quality animals are overvalued, whilst good quality animals are undervalued. We do not believe that the 51 different categories of animals that the Welsh Government propose to have in the valuation table will ever truly reflect the diverse values of different animals. These vary enormously according to breed, age, sex, bloodline/pedigree status, seasonality and organic status. Neither will they be able to take into account geographical differences in prices that do arise.

“This consultation is a step too far and we ask that Welsh Government urgently reconsider these damaging proposals.”

I’m sorry that the Minister has upset our farmers yet again. In my view the problem isn’t just that the Minister isn’t on the ‘same page as Welsh farmers, he isn’t even reading the same book’!

I’m furious that the implication from this is that the only thing farmers need is incentives to look after their herds. What utter rubbish. Generations of farming families have worked long and hard to build up pedigree herds, yet the Minister thinks that it is just a money incentive that matters, doesn’t know farmers because if that was the cause farmers wouldn’t be farming, they’d be taking the safer, easier, less stressful life by working as Welsh civil servants.

 

 

 

 
 

Conti’s Of Lampeter

07 Mar

It is some time since Ian and I visited Lampeter but we did yesterday for a meeting, but instead of rushing back to work we couldn’t resist going in there for coffee.

I’m so pleased we did because the standard was just as high as our last visit. We hadn’t time for food, but some of those seated were eating and the food looked amazing. Conti’s run a varied menu and source as much food as possible locally but of course what they are famous for is their delicious ice-cream. The coffee was as good as ever and what also cheered me up was the pleasant service from the staff. The lovely staff were fairly young but wonderfully charming and smiley – just what is needed in a service industry.

If you are ever in the area, do call in I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as we were. I had to post again about Conti’s as it makes such a change to post a pleasant, positive item and I’m always impressed when an outlet takes the time and trouble to source local Welsh food and drink.

Well done Conti’s, keep up the good work.

P.S

Amongst other duties, we visited Brecon Farmers’ market on Saturday and as it was rather late when we headed for home we decided to call in at Conti’s again – hoping for food but it was 3.45 and we are in Wales!!!! But trust Conti’s not to let me down, allowing us to both tuck in to an all day breakfast and it was delicious. Fabulous food and super service, you cannot ask for more.

P.P.S

Promise this is my last addition, but I should have said that Conti’s run loyalty cards. You buy 9 hot drinks and get the 10th free. It will take us some time before I get my freebie as we don’t get to Lampeter that often, but maybe other outlets should give loyalty cards a try and see if it works for their business.

 

 
 

Food Festival Evaluation for 2013 -14

04 Mar

For those of you that have been asking me what’s happening about this report, well it’s only taken four emails to the press office for me to ascertain that this report will be uploaded to the WG website by the end of April. There are no prizes offered by Welsh Country magazine for the first person to find this evaluation report!

I’ve asked if food festival organisers have been sent their individual reports, that is assuming that they’ll get one, but the same official answer applies, it will be available to everyone at the same time, so they will not see their report until the end of April. So for those festivals running early you are again penalised by wag, not only are you unsure if you will get your funding, but you are not able to amend or improve your festival according to last year’s evaluation. Having said that, like me, you might not be impressed with CLES/Wavehill doing the evaluation basically by phone and reading the paperwork organisers have completed.

However this evaluation will not necessarily be wasted as wag will be using it along with the outcome of the consultation on the Food and Drink Action Plan and feedback from the recent Food Festivals Seminar.  

For those of you that have asked about the seminar, I’ve had no details of what went on that I can publish. But guys you know if I’d had anything through I’d have shared it with you, because that’s what I like to do!

I’m not sure how long I will keep on saying this, but from this side, which is the outside for sure, this is box ticking by wag at its very best, or rather worst. But apart from box ticking, however I try, I cannot see how much use these festival evaluations are worth. As I see it they are about as much use as wag food’s festival criteria, or to use the old adage, as much use as a chocolate teapot…………………………….

The food festival budget is being chopped and has been so for some years and as budgets keep tightening I am sure this will be par for the course. In 2008 budget according to my figures was £376,786.99 and in 2013 was £211,164.54. But my concern is that this money is spent wisely, food festivals are given practical help from a department they feel is backing them, not taking them for granted. Wag doesn’t issue criteria that they are unable to ensure are carried out. Under last year’s criteria, festivals were supposed to issue press releases but if I received ten in total that would be it. So what use is wag’s criteria other than ticking boxes for their European funding? Some festival websites didn’t even have a list of producers attending, so how can that work? Producers pay their hard earned cash often well up front and in my opinion it should be mandatory that they are the focus and priority at all festivals. Not having them listed on their official festival website is not only sloppy, but totally unfair and fails another of wag’s marketing criteria, let alone failing our producers.

Of course Wales has some brilliant festivals that improve each year, which is how it should be. Wag should be in the driving seat ensuring it happens not just being content with completed paperwork so you can tick your boxes. Welsh food and drink, is the best but is failed by a department that is not learning from its mistakes.