Posts Tagged ‘farmers markets’

Research Into Farmers’ Markets FOI ATISN 10188

04 Mar

I attended two Farmers’ Markets in February and was asked by some producers why they were being contacted and asked questions about Farmers’ Markets. Our lovely Best of Welsh & Borders food and drink producers think I am kept in touch with what’s happening in wag food, but they should know better than that by now! Obviously I asked who was contacting them and was told each time they’d no idea. This is pathetic to hear. But they weren’t pleased at being pestered by phone to answer questions about Farmers’ Markets. Well I was puzzled too. Wag Food have told me in no uncertain terms that they are not responsible for Farmers’ Markets, markets are the Councils’ responsibility.

So my only option was to do yet another FOI. But for those of you wishing to check wag’s website yourself, wag have given this reference ATISN 10199 but also numbered it ATISN10188, sorry for the confusion, but I’m only asking the questions! The response is as follows:

Thank you for your request which I received on the 15th February 2016 about research into Farmers Markets.

A copy of the information I have decided to release is enclosed.

1. Which company has the Welsh Government authorised to undertake this telephone survey?


2. Is this another evaluation on behalf of the work done by Fork2Fork?


3. Or is it a separate survey authorised by the Welsh Government?

The research is separate to the evaluation done by Fork2Fork.

4. Why are the Welsh Government authorising such a survey when they are not responsible for Farmers’ Markets?

The Welsh Government has a Programme for Government Commitment to “Seek to diversify and strengthen the rural economy by the promotion of Farmers’ Markets, the pursuit of new markets, the growth of cooperative marketing arrangements and investment in new equipment”.

We have commissioned research to inform policy in this area.

5. Did the company have to tender for this work?


6. How much is the successful company being paid for undertaking this survey and how many producers are thy obligated to contact and get a response from?

The value of the contract is £19830 including VAT.

The contractor was not obliged to undertake a survey or contact a set number of producers. To add value to the research the contractor has undertaken a survey to provide consumer input. 112 responded.

7. How many food and drink producers are being contacted?


8. What questions are being asked?

See attached document below for the questions. If you want a pdf of the questions asked – shout and I’ll send you a copy.

9. A copy of these questions would be required.

See above questions.

10. What happens to the result of this survey and when will this survey be completed?

Welsh Government will consider the outcomes and feed into policy if appropriate. Completed by April 2016.

11.What are the objectives of this survey?

To support policy development.

Well I can only hope you found this more helpful than I did. All I can take from this is a further waste of £20k given to a company, who are so far in wag’s good books, to be awarded yet another tender and to 381 producers being pestered by them. Amazingly only 112 producers could be bothered to reply, less than a third, so was that really worth £20k?

Just let me remind you that Fork2Fork, FBA, have been paid, as far as we can ascertain, around £1 .3 million pounds, if not more, to look after farmers’ markets, farm shops and box schemes. If Fork2Fork have done the job they were extremely well paid to do, why is another survey needed? Bear in mind  Fork2Fork’s ‘work’ was also evaluated, so what is the point of all this? If wag food is short of cash couldn’t they have found some value-for-money in a different project? I guess wag food would never take into account of producers being pestered by another phone call but you cannot ignore the fact that in many instances, producers had no idea who they were talking to . So what impact has that phone call had? So in that situation, are producers likely to be honest and constructive to this ‘unknown’ person and therefore how can they be honest with them? I think too many producers have lost trust in wag food, that’;s sad to say, but that’s my understanding of it, so from that stance they aren’t likely to be open and make this mini survey of any value.

I’ve just skimmed through the questions producers have been asked – all 22 of them with six names being given as interviewers and I cannot see why Fork2Fork haven’t been asked for this information, which they should have. Question 2 is have you ever sold your goods at Farmers’ Markets in Wales? well if they haven’t why are Wavehill ringing them? Where have Wavehill selcted their  381 producers from?

A copy of the information I have decided to release is enclosed – well it will not surprise you to know that I’m also interested in the information this person is not deciding to release!!!!!

Welsh Government will consider the outcomes and feed into policy if appropriate. Well that’s interesting, after spending £20k, if the government think this survey is ‘appropriate’ it wil be fed into policy – otherwise  guess it will be filed somwhere, never to appear again – but it’s only£20k producers, not a lot of money in wag land.


Uplands Market, Swansea

03 Dec

I’ve been told so much about this market and for once, believe it or not, the news was good and from many sources too – if you discount the fact that they were all from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. The news I’ve been getting for the past three years, despite fork2fork’s £800k pay cheque for a two year campaign has been nothing but disheartening. Even previously reasonable to good markets have seen a depressing downturn of trade. Fork2fork have a lot to answer for in my view as far as markets are concerned, but so have wag. Wag can’t just hand over £800k – plus another £100k for this year and then opt out apart from their ‘religion’ of ticking boxes. I’d like to see questions answered about such a failure, but that’s as likely to happen; now the relevant boxes have been ticked, as me being elected President of the USA!!!! Yes it is that far-fetched.

Anyway back to my Swansea story, I’d been pestered so much to visit that last Saturday Ian and I did just that and you’ll be delighted to hear that it was one of the best markets I’ve attended for literally years, yes years. One street had been officially closed off to house the stalls and there were large clear notices as you were coming into Uplands about the market and the street closure. The only problem we did have was parking, but patience and scouting the side streets   paid–off. First stop was a coffee in one of the very busy independent shops approaching the market and the service and quality was a great start. Then onto the market and it was busy, not just numbers of people, but people actually purchasing from the good variety of food and drink stalls with some good quality craft stalls interspersed between them. Obviously with parking an issue, I’m guessing the visitors were mainly local but you’d all age groups there families to grannies and granddads to groups of friends enjoying the buzz of Christmas shopping. It took us ages to get around the market as we stopped to talk to some of our producers if they’d got time to chat. Uplands had even got live music going and they were brilliant. A group called Fiddlesticks playing violins to cellos with players’ ages ranging from possibly 7 or 8 – 60+. It really gave the market a marvellous atmosphere.

Now the final surprise for me was to see a stand that was actually run by the local councillors and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to quiz one of them, John Bayliss as to how their market was buzzing when others in Wales were not. John is one of 4 councillors representing Uplands and between them they have got behind this market, with all of them on hand, from the supervising of setting up, during and the breaking down. What a brilliant idea, as the councillors were there during market opening hours to answer questions and queries from the people of Uplands. No way has this been easy for them and I heard again the scenario of market organisers putting up their signs and then the council following behind taking them down!! Co-operation, communication I could go on, but sure you too have heard it before, and not just from me!!!! John and his fellows have had many battles with Swansea bureaucracy but they now found a way to work together for the benefit in this case of Uplands market. So I’m pleased, but to my simple mind this is what Swansea council as a whole should be doing anyway not creating an internal battlefield to the detriment of Uplands.

There is no need for this pathetic Council red tape which I hear from many Farmers’ Markets when all they are trying to do is sell Welsh food and drink. But this is a market in the old fashioned sense of the word with a cross section of products, food and non food.  I appreciate it is difficult for wag food as they cannot be seen to support non food, so as I’m assuming wag food will be of no assistance then I can only suggest market organisers contact ALL their Assembly Members, including Labour ones and get them to ask questions and make a fuss. It’s a tactic I’ve resorted to because I too am fed-up of battling or as I call it knocking my head against the wag and council brick walls.

One has to ask the question if local Welsh food is being sold at a market such as this with success then this model needs to be copied and both councils and wag to change their criteria for help. Surely if businesses are doing well, whether their products are food or non food, that’s more important for local councils and wag. Also help from these bodies does not necessarily mean a monetary hand out, but cooperation about such things as road closures, banners, publicity and logical, but good environmental health.

I really have enjoyed putting up a cheery post for a change.


Farmers’ Markets Update

21 Nov

My last post on 15th November was headed: Farmers’ Markets – Questions Asked In The Senedd please if you’ve time read it through and let me know your thoughts. But with confusion here as to why food festivals could be funded and markets not, the next question to the Welsh Government was:

The Welsh Government is committed to supporting and promoting Welsh food and drink through a number of measures, including food tourism and festivals. However, state aid regulations prohibit support to be given directly to individual farmers’ markets. We are anxious to support the direct link between producers and consumers. What is the difference between supporting Food Festivals as the Welsh Government do and supporting Farmers Markets which it is stated goes against state aid, can you explain the difference please?

Their response is posted in full below:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The State Aid scheme that we had used to support some costs around the organisation of food festivals and farmers markets and associated training needs ended in 2012. Under that State Aid Scheme we were never able to support the management or direct operational costs of farmers markets such as staff, stalls, signage or advertising.

“We can still sometimes use one provision within State Aid (de minimis) to cover food festivals because they are generally a one-off event and provide a valuable opportunity for food producers to boost sales and market their businesses. Farmers’ Markets are viewed as a regular retail opportunity with a lower profile and less of a trade opportunity. We therefore do not use this State Aid provision to support them.”

“We can still sometimes use one provision within State Aid (de minimis) to cover food festivals because they are generally a one-off event and provide a valuable opportunity for food producers to boost sales and market their businesses. Farmers’ Markets are viewed as a regular retail opportunity with a lower profile and less of a trade opportunity. We are therefore unable to use this State Aid provision to support them. “

Apologises for showing you the second paragraph twice, but I always show government responses in full.

I can understand what is being said, but I do wonder if countries like for example France, also follow the directions of the State Aid Scheme to the letter, as Wales and Britain always appear to do. Perhaps I’m being totally naive, but many countries don’t seem to follow the rules if they don’t like them. I think the term is bending the rules!! It would be wonderful if we were all working and trading on a level playing field, but sadly we’re not.

On a serious note though, I’m much more concerned about the Minister’s and Assembly Members lack of knowledge and understanding about farmers’ markets. Are any of them aware, let alone concerned that Fork2Fork were given £800k for a 2 year project for an awareness campaign for markets, farm shops and box schemes? Then this year, they were given a further £100k for a food conference and to update their website. Money for old rope I think fits this fork2fork funding. If anyone in the Senedd knew about this funding, then why didn’t someone grill the Minister? Why didn’t someone ask just what this massive amount of money achieved? Or they could have asked any of the markets organisers who are struggling even more now than they ever have over the last 3 years. Why can’t the Senedd do the job we are paying them for, ask the right questions, dig for the truth and don’t be fobbed off when the Ministers’ team have had plenty of time to answer their written questions correctly, and without spin.

I’ve had so many organisers off-loading on me with their worries and concerns. I just wish I could do more to help, but getting through to the food department is not an easy task. To many producers, these markets and food festivals are vital to their businesses viability. Please don’t dare say to me that producers shouldn’t rely on markets or festivals, because if Welsh people want Welsh local produce, then they can hardly go to any major supermarket can they? The other point that’s rarely listened to, is that many small producers cannot, and do not wish their produce to go down the supermarket route. So please government, stop drawing blood from these guys who are only trying to make a living. Have the guts to ask them what they want and need and I’ll tell you now, it’s not nearly a million pounds thrown at one company with little positive effect. Often local people can’t go to their High Streets for local food either as Welsh local councils continues to suck the life out of local businesses trying to still trade there, what with high business rates and car parking charges there’s little hope there. There’s much lip service and spin about Welsh local food, but there’s little joined up writing to ensure local produces can earn a decent living whilst Welsh people can buy Welsh food and drink easily.






Farmers’ Markets – Questions Asked In The Senedd

15 Nov

Just for your information, these questions were sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers yesterday so they have the report before it goes up on welshfoodbites.

On 13th November we noted that farmers’ markets were a subject of questions, and knowing this will be of interest – or annoyance here is the relevant section for you to read:

9. What measures can the Welsh Government take to further improve the support available for farmers’ markets? OAQ (4)0079(NRF)

Alun Davies

The Welsh Government is committed to supporting and promoting Welsh food and drink through a number of measures, including food tourism and festivals. Julie Morgan

I thank the Minister for his response. Does the Minister have any analysis or market research of the customers who use farmers’ markets, such as the ones in Rhiwbina, Whitchurch, Riverside and Roath—which are the farmers’ markets in Cardiff? Does he believe that there are any price barriers for some customers in accessing locally sourced organic food?

Alun Davies

I think that there are issues in some parts of Wales about accessing local fresh food. This may be the case for organic food as well, but it is certainly the case for local fresh food. The Government’s renewed action plan for food will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair. There will be a section of that that addresses the issues that the Member has raised in terms of farmers’ markets, as well as the connection between the consumer and the producers and processors of foods. That is a connection that is essential for us to make as a country, a society and a community. I would invite all Members, on all sides of the Chamber, to look at what the Government is proposing to do to strengthen those links and to join us in an active dialogue about how we can strengthen the food chains that currently exist in Wales and ensure that people—whatever their income bracket and wherever they live in Wales—have access to great, fresh food produced in Wales.

Mohammad Asghar

Minister, in August of this year, it was reported that Chepstow town council was providing incentives for traders, in the hope of reviving the town’s farmers’ market. These incentives included no charge being made for trading licence fees, pitch fees and electricity. What further incentives is the Welsh Government considering to promote and extend farmers’ markets in Wales?

Alun Davies

In terms of the promotion of farmers’ markets, the movement is not something that has been the creature of Government—it is not something that is top down. I would like to see Government and local authorities promoting and supporting the ability of local producers and others to develop the farmers’ market movement and the wider local marketing and purchase of food across the whole of Wales. I would welcome local authorities taking such steps and, certainly, if any barriers exist at Welsh Government level, I would be very happy to look at how we can remove those barriers.

Lindsay Whittle

Minister, you have touched on some of what I was going to cover in my question. We talk about fuel poverty in this Chamber, but there is good-quality food poverty as well. You have rightly mentioned that the food in farmers’ markets is organic, it is fresher, it has travelled less and the profits stay in Wales. There are many people on benefits, Minister, who cannot afford to buy it, because it is too expensive. You subsidise food festivals in Wales; why do you not subsidise farmers’ markets?

Alun Davies

There are legal issues with some of those matters, but let us try to overcome issues where they exist and look at what we want to achieve. When you see the strategy that I am proposing for the development of the food programme from the Welsh Government, in all its different elements, you will see an action plan that addresses issues of production, of primary production, of processing, of promotion, of manufacture and of the links with the consumer—social as well as health and education. I hope that, in developing a holistic approach to food policy, what we will be doing is helping to create the links that you describe, with which I very much agree, and doing so in a way that strengthens the production of food and the access to consumption of food, which is of high quality, across the whole of Wales.


Well, where do I start? After reading this I feel like Alice in Wonderland or Alice stuck down a rabbit hole. Little of this makes any sense to me and as I reckon I’m involved in the Welsh food industry I’m worried and annoyed in equal measure. Now let me say that I didn’t think our Welsh farmers markets were organic. If that’s the case then that message has been lost on me – organic? I thought we were talking about local food for local people. As fork2fork ‘AWARENESS’ which has cost us to date bang on £900k, why haven’t our Assembly Members, at the very least, got this ‘awareness’ message? So I’ll award another black mark to fork2fork because if they haven’t been able to get the message to our Assembly Members, who are so easy to target at the Senedd, then what realistic hope is there that fork2fork have managed to get their awareness message to even a proportion of the Welsh public? Well I think you have the answer to that one in the questions that have been asked, haven’t you?

Much is made by some Assembly Members about farmers’ market being expensive, so if that’s their take on it, it is yet another black mark to fork2fork because shouldn’t part of their ‘awareness’ campaign being to get the message out that you can shop well and with good local quality at your farmers’ market? Should they have said that the money then stays in the county and in Wales – unlike supermarket shopping, money from which rarely stops in the UK let alone in Wales?

I’m intrigued to hear that: However, state aid regulations prohibit support to be given directly to individual farmers’ markets. We are anxious to support the direct link between producers and consumers.

I’m not aware exactly what the Minister means by ‘state aid regulations’, so I asked for the definitive answer from the Press Office.    

I thought the Minister was meaning that markets are classed as making a profit, so they don’t qualify for funding, but if that’s the case how does funding for festivals which make a profit, then work? So sorry I’m confused, but will clarify when I can, because as it stands it makes no sense to me.

Much song and dance has been made by our Minister about our current Food Plan being dumped and that another was then being introduced. We have been told, as the Senedd has also been told, that the Minister is keen to get the views of producers of all sizes from across Wales and will arrange discussion groups – as happened with the last Food Plan. The sad thing is, again in my opinion is that wag food went through these same  motions, they ticked their important box and went ahead – seemingly ignoring the voices of many producers who said at the time that a 10 Year plan would not work. Well done guys we’ve been proved right now as the latest Minster has now thrown that plan out now. And now the Minister says:

The Government’s renewed action plan for food will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.

Well Minster it seems déjà vu is my response to you. Needless to say, although I’m on RWAS press list I’ve heard nothing from them about the Minister’s forthcoming announcement and neither have I heard anything from the Press Office or from wag food either.

In terms of the promotion of farmers’ markets, the movement is not something that has been the creature of Government—it is not something that is top down. 

I’m also furious on this comment too. Just because the government hasn’t created farmers’ markets, it doesn’t give the Minister, or his government, an opt-out clause. Their job is promoting our local food – end of story. Don’t you dare come up with ‘the government hasn’t created markets’ as it seems your washing your hands on them as they’re not a government creation. In another question to the Minister about Welsh Red Meat, he was pleased to announce that the government is helping HCC with trips to push Welsh lamb to the USA,  Canada, China and Russia. So I’m horrified that the Minister doesn’t seem to bear any responsibility that through his government and through Europe, FBA/Fork2fork have taken £900k to promote markets, box schemes and farm shops, yet few in these sectors are doing even reasonably well.

I’ll be interested in your views on this although one comment has already come in overnight and posted elsewhere about these questions.


It Doesn’t Appear That HCC Are Supporting Farmers’ Markets

01 Aug

On 31st July I posted the question: ‘Are HCC Supporting Farmers Markets?

HCC, Hybu Cig Cymru, assures us that they are supporting farmers’ markets, but that is not what we are hearing. So puzzled by yet another stand-off, we emailed 60 Farmers’ Markets, asking them that simple question. The feedback, I can only describe as startling. I was pleasantly surprised that any market organiser would have time to email us back, bearing in mind that many market organisers are volunteers, but some have and this is where it stands to date:

60 emails sent.

23 responses received.

1 market was pleased with the support received from HCC

1 market was undecided how to respond and ‘was thinking about it……………………….

21 said that they’d had no support at all from HCC, OR didn’t know who HCC were!

Well if I was HCC I’d be having a re-think about their stance on farmers’ markets. Actually markets was one of the three sectors Fork2Fork were supposed to target, so one would assume those two parties at least had some dialogue, even if apparently there wasn’t much action to follow in their two year programme.

As HCC I’d also think more carefully about what was  published in their official booklets.

It’s honesty, not spin, that is the best policy, especially when backed up with facts and figures.



Are HCC Supporting Farmers?

31 Jul

Two booklets published by HCC, Hybu Cig Cymru,  the Decade of Success and the Royal Welsh Show 2013 Food and Drink Wales state that HCC ‘works with Farmers Markets’.

That puzzled our team as we are regularly ‘got at’ by butchers who say that HCC do little if anything for them, HCC is focused on supermarkets and exports, not butchers. But in case I was missing something in the world of Welsh meat, HCC was asked to clarify.

Their response was as follows:
With regards to your question, HCC has supported farmers markets in different ways over the years. For example, we have given cooking demonstrations at several markets, including Riverside in Cardiff. We have also provided farmers who sell at these markets with promotional material. Farm shops that sell PGI Welsh Lamb or PGI Welsh Beef have also been provided with material which includes recipe booklets, posters, etc.

I’m afraid I didn’t find that helpful. Citing Cardiff Riverside market is fine but it’s one of the few markets that’s not struggling as much as many others across Wales. Please don’t expect me to believe that what happens in capital reflects what’s going on over the whole of Wales. I find it rather insulting that HCC will come out with a statement that they are ‘working with Farmers’ Markets’ is not a serious statement that can be followed through.

HCC have now been asked what they have done for specific Farmers’ Markets in the last twelve months. I’ll make sure their answer is passed onto you.  

My other concern, that has been raised quite a few times on welshfoodbites is that HCC go on and on about how supportive they are to farmers and retailers that sell PGI Welsh lamb and beef, but if they are doing such a good job with PGI, then why are we talking to butchers who have no idea what PGI is? Whoops, sorry, maybe those are the butchers that haven’t yet told HCC that they are butchers with a shop in Wales, so hopefully HCC can add them to their database and then send them out some literature. I apologise for forgetting the onus is on our butchers to tell HCC they are trading, which is perhaps just one of the reasons that HCC still cannot tell me how many independent butchers there are in Wales.

No point wasting further time with HCC but I do wonder how many readers of Welsh Country magazine, i.e. our Welsh Joe Public, have heard of or have a clue just what PGI is all about………………………..

A further comment from on HCC states: HCC do not give direct financial aid to any farmers markets. As previously mentioned,
what we do is give those farmers and butchers who sell PGI Welsh Lamb or PGI Welsh Beef and who have stalls at farmers markets the same promotional assistance that we give other retailers that sell PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh

Well I think most of us in the industry are aware that HCC do not support financially any farmers’ markets, but seemingly Riverside was in favour with HCC at some stage  with a cookery demonstration. Wowee! So when HCC publish booklets that are for the public too, saying they support farmers’ markets, what they actually mean is that they support farmers and butchers that are involved with PGI. Well why can’t HCC be up front and say just that?  Aren’t the Welsh public confused enough without HCC adding to it?

Talk about knocking you head against a brick wall ………………………………….

Ian’s taken the trouble to email farmers’ markets asking what support they’ve had from HCC – three replies back within literally 10 minutes saying: That’s easy – nothing! And another saying None. I doubt HCC know we exist.

Haven’t time to update this with any further responses but starting off with 3 so quickly is something, but it’s so annoying  with this feedback and I can only wish that HCC can take it on board.


Ruthin Produce Market Is No More

20 Mar

I’m looking forward to posting a positive post but so far I’m failing as another market bites the dust. I think this is the third market I’ve been told quite recently that has now ceased trading. This time it’s Ruthin Produce Market, which not too long ago relocated to the Ruthin’s original market place, Market Street. My grapevine tells me that this was a very good quality market, with some great producers. Sadly it is one of quite a few markets that haven’t visited. I’m told that Ruthin market has closed because the volunteers just found it too much additional work for them. That’s a real shame because a few more volunteers could have lightened their workload, but seemingly that couldn’t be sorted. This is quite a common problem with producers. There are quite a large number that complain a lot, but not many will put in the extra work needed to keep these volunteer-run markets going. The general excuse is that they’re too busy, but the result is more markets closing will hit their pockets and make life even tougher that it already is.

Make no mistake I’ll continue to push and work hard for our producers with us on Best Of Welsh & Borders. But there is no way I can say I enjoy hitting my head continuously on the wag wall. I’ve never been backwards in coming forwards, telling our producers if I think they have got it wrong. Honesty is the best policy isn’t it? I’ve always tried to be constructive, becasue I think that’s the best way to win an arguement. It’s how I try to work with wag too, but as you gather by welshfoodbites, that’s not easy either as I hit brick wall after brick wall. At the end of the day Welsh Country magazine is the strongest food title Wales has and after all these years if we cannot work together to improve the lot of food producers, then something is seriously wrong.

In my book, anohter market closure is a disaster for the genuinely micro/small producers who are so reliant on markets and festivals to sell their produce. As I understand it our Welsh markets are run by a mix of councils, of course with staff we pay for, but many others like Ruthin are totally dependent on volunteers. Now as if this market folding isn’t bad enough, let’s just give a thought to Ruthin itself and the loss this will be to the local shop traders too. I remember visiting the monthly held Mumbles Local Produce market and after the market wound down I spent a few hours in the town chatting to local shopkeepers asking them their view of the market. They were unanimous in saying they loved their local market, their only wish was that it was weekly not monthly!

I have never had a clear idea on a practical level, how the £800k fork2fork campaign was going to help farmers’ markets, which  was one of the project’s roles along with box schemes and farm shops. But my view has not changed in that I don’t think it worked. So dear reader, with this project now extended for another year, plus a further £100k in their kitty, £43,761 of which will be spent on additional activity for the website and some further information circulation, have you any need to worry about the future of markets, box schemes and farm shops?

Answers not on a postcard please just post or email me direct if you prefer. But your identity on this site will remain confidential, you have my word.


Butchers, Who & Where Are You? Please Tell HCC Because They Don’t Know!!!

13 Nov

On 26th October I posted on my struggle to get what I thought was a simple FOI question, Number 6577 answered. The two questions were: 1. How many independent retails butchers are there in Wales? 2. Please forward the full list of all independent butchers in Wales. To be then told that the HCC, wag nor the FSA hadn’t the figures I’d asked for – that was it. So as is allowed I went forward to ask for an internal review to Wag in Pontypridd. This internal review got a similar response but I was also told if I wasn’t content with that response I could go back to him. Why oh why, would any civil servant after NOT answering a question, would they expect any journalist to be happy. In case you can’t guess, I’m not and here we go again. I’m sure it is not just me, but it is something I find infuriating, unprofessional and very annoying. Whilst emails banged backwards and forwards – achieving nothing new but wag’s game of smoke and mirrors continues. I’m then asked if I feel that wag and HCC should have this information this will be discussed with HCC. ‘If I feel’ ………guys I am not head honcho of HCC, because if I was, this basic information would have been there. How can any business, and in the case of HCC I use this term loosely, because you can’t be classed as a business if you are funded by wag and the levies paid for by the meat trade – but as I have been told that HCC is an industry lead body, how can they have the ability to lead anything at all if they don’t know how many local butchers they should be looking after? Cynics amongst you, will of course be saying that HCC have never looked after butchers and all the wordage on HCC’s website simply ‘says’ the right things but as we all know actions speak louder than words don’t they? I have followed through with this FOI question because butchers have quizzed me with one in particular asking me to send one through on his behalf. With my past poor record of achieving any sensible discussion with HCC, I warned him I wasn’t hopeful, but I certainly did expect to make some progress. Of course there are other options for me to try and at the moment I have a half page spare in our food editorial pages for our next issue of Welsh Country magazine, January/February. But do our readers really want to know that HCC, who is paid such a whacking amount of money to be a ‘lead industry body’ doesn’t know how many independent butchers there are in Wales – of course the embarrassment thankfully would be mine, but the question I’m struggling with, is will sharing this information help or hinder this industry further? Since Welsh Country magazine started eight years ago we set our stall out to support and promote local Welsh food in as many ways as we could. We ran a Buy Local – Eat Local campaign we put together our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers group, which now totals over 100 producers. We talk on a regular basis by phone and email to our BOW people, and they are more up-to-date with what is happening in their industry than they have ever been, which is excellent and is how it should be, despite the fact that communication should be wags job. We know when our producers are unhappy and we feel it is part of our role to help them when we can with any food problems. I started welshfoodbites and this has been a massive success, despite not being funded by anyone but us. If I tell you that I’ve asked on our producers’ behalf in excess of 30, yes thirty Freedom Of Information questions relating to food issues. Wag have eventually in some case, had to supply information that I’d been told was not in the public domain, but I got there, in time. It is not for the first time, I can assure that the WCM team and I feel we are the unpaid conscience of wag food, but does it still have to be this way?

So far this year Ian and I have attended 22 food festivals. But over the years we’ve attended numerous farmers’ markets, local produce markets, food conferences and food tourism groups. So surely there can’t be too much doubt that we have more than a good idea of what our food producers are thinking and wanting.

As wag, HCC or FSA don’t know butcher number in Wales, we are now having to speak to County Environmental Health officers to find if they have the information readily available. We still await a response but they have now put the question under an Freedom of Information banner so we should hear within 20 working days.  If this situation gets updated you can be sure I’ll let you know.


Taking Scottish Food To The Next Level

19 Oct

This is rather an unusual header for a post on welshfoodbites, but please don’t think I have gone totally mad, well not totally, maybe just slightly! Just thought you might find the following of interest:

Local food has been given a boost as £2.5 million is made available over three years to support initiatives that put a spotlight on Scotland’s outstanding natural produce. The Scottish Government is working in collaboration with SRUC – Scotland’s Rural College – to set up Think Local, an initiative to deliver targeted support and advice to local food companies, networks and communities. Think Local will include the £1.5 million Community Food Fund, which will deliver funding to a wide range of projects – such as local food marketing, food tourism, farmers markets, food festivals and events.

Plans are also being progressed for the National Food & Drink Forum, a diverse body that will bring together a broad array of experts from industry, health and environment and wider society to advise government on the strategic direction of our approach to food and drink, with a remit to put forward practical solutions.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Here in Scotland we have a fantastic range of fine food and drink right on our doorstep, with more and more Scots realising the excellent quality and taste that local producers deliver. But we can always do more. Think Local will help champion local food, by supporting projects and events across Scotland. With the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and a second Homecoming celebration in 2014, we have a great opportunity to showcase Scotland to the world. Food & drink will be an integral part to that and I want every business – from the largest to the smallest – to have the opportunity to take part. That’s what the Community Food Fund will aim to achieve. Scotland has made great strides over the past five years in how our food and drink is perceived, backed up by soaring exports. But I want more Scots to have access to delicious and nutritious local food, which is a particular challenge during these tough economic times. This is one issue I intend to put to the National Food & Drink Forum. Scotland is blessed by natural resources – in terms of our water, land and people, but for our food and drink industry to continue to be successful we also to face up to the challenges. That includes the climate challenge, the diet challenge and the economic challenge. The Forum will bring together a diverse range of individuals to think ahead on these key issues and ensure we are best positioned for the future. Taking in views from the industry, health and environment sectors and wider society, the National Food & Drink Forum will explore these issues and offer up practical solutions. I look forward to setting out full details about the new Forum later this year.”

David Lamb, Head of Food and Drink at SRUC, said: “Think Local builds on the excellent work already delivered in the development of local food. It brings together strands which have looked to develop the sector of local and speciality food from farms shops and farmers markets through to the regional networks which are enhancing Scotland’s reputation for quality food. We want to see that develop, to create a local food and drink landscape across Scotland, including tourism and events. This is the mechanism to make that happen.”

Alan Stevenson, Development Director at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, who will be involved in the development of Think Local, added: “We’re delighted to be a part of this joined up approach across Scotland to help develop local and regional food opportunities. It brings together all the expertise available in Scotland to drive forward the growth of local foods through Think Local. We know the industry and Government partnership model works extremely well, as has proved the case in the delivery of the successful Scottish Farmers Markets Partnership project, which included several of the key players in this exciting new initiative.”

Related information

Think Local will build on food engagement work of the Scottish Government and SRUC and will include collaboration with Scotland Food and Drink, the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, the Scottish Association of Farmers Markets, and the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association.

The Think Local remit will include developing new local food networks, expanding Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, creating signature food events for Homecoming Scotland, and providing new support for farmer’s markets. Funding for the operations of Think Local will be supported by £1 million from the Scottish Government.

The £1.5 million Community Food Fund will be delivered over three years. The Community Food Fund will be available to:

  • Support development of local food networks
  • Support communities to run local food events
  • Target specifically communities attempting to tackle deprivation
  • Deliver training and development
  • Develop farmer’s markets and farm retail opportunities
  • Help enhance food tourism

The membership and full remit of the National Food & Drink Forum will be set out in the coming months. It’s envisaged that the Forum will have a wide ranging membership, covering disciplines such as health and environment as well as the food and drink industry, and focus each year on a specific set of issues.

Well that sounds positive and pro-active doesn’t it? A spend of £1.5m is a fair amount, so I’ll be interested to get feedback when this initiative has ended. £1.5m, but I wonder how many of you recall FBA getting £800k but only had to ‘look at’ farmers’ markets, farm shops and box schemes. Sadly my feedback on what that £800k achieved for Wales has not been positive. Maybe the Scottish pound goes further and gets better value for money than we can achieve here in Wales with our Welsh pounds!




Aberystwyth Food and Drink Festival

19 Sep

Well I was dleighted to see the big guns were out at this festival. I caught up with MP Mark Williams and his family who were busy doing their usual shopping at the Farmers Market. Then I met the Mayor of Aber, resplendent in his chain of office, but I was pleased he still had time for a chat with me. Elin Jones was also there, but we didn’t manage to have a chat.

I’ve not visited this festival before, but with the moans and groans I had been getting for some weeks from producers, I thought it best to travel north, especially as Wag were supporting this one day festival with £8,239.76. I was pleased to see one advertising sign as I drove into Aber, which was a start, but I’d have loved to have seen more and flyers and posters around the town in the shop windows. But one sign is better than nothing and I did actually get a press release sent through twice from Ceredigion County Council. So that again is is again better than many funded festivals are doing. I still take Wag to task that if they are funding these events then they  should insist that the festivals get to grip with PR & Marketing and if the events no idea what to do, then give them some them. If this still doesn’t work then just stop their funding!!!

The grumbles I had been getting were that the Farmer’s Market was running in its normal position on North Parade whilst the food festival was running in Baker Street. Now having two distinctly separate areas selling food, might have made sense to the locals who know the market runs every other week, but the visitors I spoke to had no idea that the market was taking place further down the town. The Mayor explained when I queried him, saying that Aberystwyth didn’t really have the space to run both events together. I’m not sure why in that case they didn’t run the festival on a Saturday that wasn’t a ‘market Saturday’ or find a way to integrate the market into the food festival. But it’s not dificult to understand why the market traders felt not just left out, but put out by the way this day was organised. I was told the stands in both areas were the same price, but Baker Street was certainly much busier and much windier too. Yet sad that some market traders that are supporting Aberystwyth twice each month, didn’t have their loyalty rewarded by getting into the busier Baker Street area. I was told that there were ‘issues’ over emails not getting through etc. etc. but is there anything wrong with picking up a phone? To be quite frank, I don’t want to hear from unhappy producers because I then struggle to get anyone to listen. Wuld a compromise have been that food stalls only were allowed into Baker Street? Why couldn’t the face painting stand, or the stands giving out literature have gone to North Parade? There was an ‘unmanned’ stand in Baker Street that had literature on it, including True Taste books, simply left on a table, not even a notice that you could take one. The stand looked messy, there wasn’t even a cover on the table. No stand should ever be left in this state; it’s not only a waste of space, it gives a poor image to visitors. If ‘someone’ had paid for this stand space where were they?     

The feedback I want at events is the feedback I got from St Fagans which I went to last Saturday, happy traders, making a reasonable amount, an organiser and her team that really were there to help and spent the two days circulating and solving any problems. 

Surely better communication would have solved some of the problems here. I’m not saying that all producers are wonderful, I’m not oblivious to the fact that they are not always easy to get hold of. I know they are not the best at explaining what they need and want from an event, but the crunch is that this is their livelihood. They don’t have the security of knowing how much their salary will be in the bank at the end of each month. Please remember that the economic downturn has hit the producers as hard as any other industry and what we all need to do is develop is a better way to communicate to each other and to understand much better the difficulties on both sides.