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Posts Tagged ‘food producers’

Fabulous Food Festival At Lampeter

29 Jul

Thankfully this is a fairly local festival for me and it’s sited in the impressive grounds of the Lampeter campus of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The setting is superb for a food festival and they had wonderful support from over 70 food stands, many of which are with us as our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW,  so that always puts me in a cheery mood. But as much as I like seeing our BOW producers, I much prefer it if they are too busy to talk to me, but having said that, I still wanted some feedback from those that had also attended the RWAS during the week. Producers that had done both events must have been mentally and physically shattered, four or five days at the Welsh with barely a day’s break in between and then onto Lampeter. But Lampeter certainly beat RWAS in the warm welcome stakes. They were blessed with wonderful weather until about 4.00ish when some rain came in but a huge achievement to be running for 16 years.

There was plenty of signage going in and that had been up some time which I was delighted to see, as you well know that’s one of my regular moans. Rebecca Jones was the lady in charge of PR & Marketing and she’d done a good job, so no complaints there either, especially as there was an exhibitors’ stand list on their website, plus they were all included in the free festival programme with their website details too, another bonus!  There was no charge to go in either so it was a very pleasant start to the day and pleased Lampeter could sort out their budget to avoid having to charge on the gate. Lampeter was funded by wag the festival asked for £7k and got £7k not sure why they didn’t ask for £10k because; in my opinion they’d have deserved it. Ideally I wouldn’t site stands together if they were both doing jars, i.e. jams and chutneys, but that I guess is just giving the orgnaisers even more work to do! I was pleased to see quite a few stands that were new to Ian and I and one enterprising stand, Amanda Jane’s of Anglesey also doing Summer Punch over ice – smart move – but I bet other traders will follow their lead on that one at the next festival!!!

The craft fair was moved from the attractive quadrangle area which I always thought worked well and that was now under one tent near the music stage and had been handed over to the Ceredigion Craft Makers. Stand numbers were down but I do think that many craft people are finding the economic climate very tough. So it certainly didn’t work for the craft makers and I think perhaps wag worried some organisers about having too many craft stands, but I do think craft stands can keep people there longer, which means perhaps the food guys can sell to them again later in the day. I can see wag have no wish to fund cheap craft stall but if craft are paying as much if not more than food stalls it should still benefit the festival overall.

Ian and I were there from ten until four so we had lots of time to chat and that we certainly did. There’s no grapevine as good as our food grapevine! Generally feedback from Lampeter was good, and I think that is purely down to the hard-working committee who has managed to create a really friendly and very worthwhile event. Lampeter were not only lucky with the warm weather, giving it very much a garden party atmosphere but they manage to improve the festival each year and you cannot ask for more than that, can you? Feedback from Lampeter was very positive with some traders running out of stock. Great news, but annoying for them that they’d not taken more with them, but you just can’t judged it right every time, that’s impossible. The general feedback from Rwas was fairly positive, although some traders did take more at Caerphilly Big Cheese over the weekend than they’d done in 4 days at the Rwas.

Although I don’t live in Lampeter, I was pleased to see a few local people that I knew attending. This festival is gradually building up tremendous support from locals and I hope they can continue to do so in the future. One familiar face that I’d bumped into at the Rwas on Monday was Mark Williams, Ceredigion’s hard-working MP; it was good to have another quick chat with him. I also understand that AM Elin Jones paid a visit to the festival as well, so two VIPS is more good news for Lampeter.

There was a change in the original layout as the committee had moved the music and main seating area away from the food stands. I much preferred the festival this way as it meant the producers could chat easily to the visitors and of course this is what it’s all about. There was still an active music stage area, alongside plenty of activities for children, without any distraction to the trade of food and drink. There were numerous seating areas dotted around the festival and I must say how well used they were. It was brilliant to see so many people buying quality food and drink and sitting down and having a good gossip. What did upset me and I think the only thing that really got me cross on the day, was seeing mobile food vans. There were two if not three in attendance. Now mobile vans I have to accept at agricultural shows to feed the masses, but there’s no way I can accept  them at a food festival. Absolutely not! Lampeter had got some of the best artisan food producers there, which is no mean feat considering there were other food events on that weekend too. But local quality food is what we/they should be promoting and pushing from our artisan producers, not giving pride of place to the likes of Dinky Donuts. Many of the producers were doing a wide range of hot foood from samosas to paella and I can certainly recommend Harmony Herds’ scrumptious boarburgers. I’m not a burger fan, but the quality of these are exceptional with a delicious salsa tomato sauce. When you have got producers of this quality, you should be backing them hook line and sinker. What made this even worse was that two mobile vans were parked next to one of the covered seating areas and the kitchen demo area – not a smart move – but again that’s my opinion.

The cooking area worked well and there was a list of who was cooking and when, plus giving music line-up too on the side of the tent, so another plus point. I think my only helpful comment was perhaps making sure people were told who Vicky North and Simon Wright were, that would have been useful. It also showed in the programme that Lyn Ebenezer was opening the event. Lyn is from Pontrhydfendigaid and is an author and an S4C presenter. Small details, I know but they do matter for visitors from outside the town especially.

I had a quick chat with Chris Thomas, Chair of the festival and was sorry to hear he was stepping down after this year’s event. He has worked hard to continually improve the festival and I wish him well after his marathon slog. I’m certainly not against a change at the top, it’s often a good thing, a new person with often new ideas. Also unless you’ve done this job, it’s so easy to take organisers for granted, forgetting or ignoring how much work is involved. Many of them are usually volunteers with full-time jobs and families to look after as well, so I’m sure Chris will enjoy having more time for himself and can be satisfied that he’s really moved this festival forward.

 
 

Food Festivals

04 Jul

Cardigan Bay festival takes place this weekend. So how do I know that? Well only because wag food eventually sent me through a list of food festivals they were funding. So I might as well remind you that this event asked for £9,500 and received £9k.

So you might well be asking yourself, what’s my latest problem? Well everything! Let me start with signage. I was in Aberaeron last Sunday, just one week before their big day and I didn’t see a single sign or a single poster and I’m only about 30 minutes away. So that’s not a good start and one of wag’s criteria ignored. So now with only days to go before the start, I still await a press release, but smug I’ve been clever enough not to hold my breath on that one.  I have to assume that my local paper had details sent through to them, but sadly I’ve been left out, poor me! Was it something I’ve said? In case you think I’m simply having another rant, this is another of wag’s criteria, saying festivals must send out press releases. Too many festivals are ignoring wag’s criteria and press releases are a basic PR tool if an event is trying to gain as much publicity as possible. It would appear that I’m a slow learner, because once more I’ve again taken the time and trouble to explain, by email to wag, what is happening so far with some food festivals. I’ve explained, working from my PR & Marketing background, that wag should be asking not just for copies of all press releases sent out by an event, but a list of where they were sent and finally where they were published, as proof of publication is essential. If publicity is not generated, visitor numbers will be limited to just local people, so in effect it’s a local fete. This important and essential, but it’s still not happening.

I’m worried because food festivals and hence our food producers, are missing out as so many people do not know what is happening and when and as this is often the case, why are wag still funding some festivals? But if wag food are happy with that scenario, then I am one of many that aren’t happy. But will this bother wag? I guess not as wag are not trying to earn their living in this industry are they? Wales has many micro magazines and websites and these are often well-read over a very limited area, but food festivals need to remember that there is a lot more media out there than their local newspapers, which are all operated by one of the big four publishers, and because of their nature are all well-supported with government advertising.

Now if that is not sufficient for me to grumble about, I just been on the web looking for a list of producer’s attending this event. Unfortunately this festival doesn’t have its own site but is linked into the town site, but even so, and some of you will not be surprised to learn that there isn’t one! I’m not surprised by this because this happening far too often.

Many of you are now aware, that TWO companies have been asked by wag to do an evaluation of food festivals this year. I’ve been invited to do an interview with them because of my – wealth of experience and strong views on food festivals and could undoubtedly provide useful information to the evaluators. Sadly wag:  cannot offer payment to interviewees in this situation and will fully understand if you choose to decline this opportunity.

Well I’ve refused their ‘kind’ offer as my name will then be linked with this review although I’ll have no control or input on the content. So although I shall be attending this event, I’ve no intention of blogging again about it and assisting wag’s two companies free of charge. Please don’t shout at me for not blogging about any more festivals. It’s a lot of work for me, and as welshfoodbites was used by Miller last year, I’ve basically had enough of being taken for granted by wag etc.

I’m not sure how much longer it will take wag to question themselves on why they are putting funding into Welsh food festivals that are then blatantly ignoring their criteria. Wag need also to ask themselves if they are funding food festivals so a few organisers can do some self-promotion, or are the food festivals first and foremost for our food producers?  If food producers are the priority then why, yet again, can’t I get a list of food producers attending this event?

 
 

Port Talbot Food Festival

10 Jun

Ian and I  didn’t attend this festival, but this monring we’ve had some strong feedback through, sad to say it was not good. It took place at the Aberafan Shopping Centre on Friday and Saturday 7th & 8th June. I am so disappointed that I didn’t get a press release about this festival. I’ve no idea why not, maybe the organisers are still not aware Welsh Country magazine does a lot of food in every single issue!! However this festival was not funded by wag.

I found out indirectly that this festival was happening and very kindly sent it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, but  with a statement that we were not recommending this event and had no idea if it was worth attending or not. Thanks goodness we sent it out with that caveat, as feedback to date has been so poor.

So bearing in mind I was not there to see for myself, I’ve been told that there were about thirty stalls, 6- or 7 selling booze, a couple doing ice-creams and then lots of stands pushing jams and preserves. There was also a cookery demonstration area, but a producer told me one cook was doing brioche….. I’m not sure what logic was working here, if any was, but was that a good recipe for this audience? Shouldn’t demos be targeted for each market? Was brioche using produce from the producers who the organiser’s had charged to be there? I really do think it is about time that if cookery demos, which are being pushed so hard by wag, that the producers attending are used, to their advantage. Plan ahead, use their produce, give them a decent plug, give them a copy of the recipe shown to take home. As a general comment, instead of paying top dollar for celebrity chefs, use local chefs or get some of the producers to do a demo. Many producers are so good at demos and of course so passionate about their produce which certainly comes through. Not to mention how much it generates interest in their stand and sales to, naturally.

Actually I was pleased I didn’t bother going, more so when I heard that parking was £1.00 an hour! How can that encourage people to meander around at their leisure when they have a £1 an hour charge ticking away in their head?

I’m so disappointed to hear that another food festival has not gone well. Obviously I can’t pinpoint any specific holes with not being there, but would I have attended if I’d received a press release? Well who knows………….

 
 

Food Hygiene Rating Regulations – Scores On The Doors

06 Jun

One of the many perks of joining the Best Of Welsh & Borders producers is that we try and keep producers updated with food news, views and of course gossip. So this week we emailed around to all BOW the following: Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Regulations 2013

The consultation document asks for comments on regulations which set out the detail of the statutory Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Consultation period: 27/03/2013 – 21/06/2013

We wanted our producers, who are the people on the front line that are affected by wag’s latest food brainstorm, to have a chance to raise their feelings on the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

Delighted to get some feedback from our BOW and this is a short summary, no producers will be mentioned as that is the whole point of welshfoodbites, you can air your views, you can rant and rave, you can also praise too, but all your comments are confidential. I don’t care if we have hundreds who wish to be known as producer or trader that is fine. It is your opinions that are needed because as we are finding so many of you are thinking the same, but many of you are afraid to air your views officially through wag or food organisers because of repercussions. Well I hope I’ve taken that fear away from you and can assure you that the only people getting the backlash from wag are Welsh Country.

Anyway back to food hygiene. The concern amongst our BOW is that the information given to the consumer, our general public regarding the Food Hygiene Rating, is misleading. Let me explain, if you asked the man/woman in the high street, what do they believe ‘hygiene’ means, I am convinced that most of them would state ‘cleanliness’ as the obvious reply, that’s the first thing that comes into their minds. However the rating is not only about cleanliness, it is very much about completing the necessary paperwork demanded by the Agency.

All business’ have a responsibility to ensure that the produce which they are selling is safe to eat and, that all aspects of safety are strictly adhered to. There should be the necessary paperwork to complete, but the consumer should be made aware that in addition to cleanliness, the necessary paperwork has to be undertaken and it is the paperwork that is the major part of the scoring. One producer was told by an environmental health officer that even if a business was spotlessly clean and showing care, if the SFBB booklet had not been completed, then that business would only receive a rating of 1. Now I you’d think this hard to believe, wouldn’t you? But when I hear this same tale many times I am horrified. Plus I’m hearing tales that Environmental Health standards between our counties makes this far from a level playing field for our BOW to operate on and if the general pubic knew what has happening they would also have no faith in this scheme.

Of course paperwork has to be part of the rating, in order to prove to the various bodies that the regulations are being adhered to. However it is very important that full information be given to the consumer of what the rating entails, at the present time I do not believe that this is happening and I’m so cross that wag come up with an idea but somehow fail to think it through fully, from all angles.

 

 

 
 

Sun Shines On Really Wild Food Festival

28 May

It’s not professional to have favourite food festivals, I know that, but being human, I must confess this is one of mine. Ian and I have been visiting this event for many years and the welcome we receive is always warm and friendly. Alison Belton is the lady in charge of promotion and marketing and if only some other festivals could clone her, their life would be a little easier! I get regular press releases about this event, their website is up-to-date, including food producers attending and I’m kept totally in the loop of what’s going on. There was also plenty of signage coming in too – another of my gripes sorted.

RWFF’s move from their usual site on the outskirts of St Davids to The Bishops Palace in the cathedral grounds, courtesy of CADW, plus changing the date again to take advantage of the Bank Holiday, was in many ways a massive gamble. But one I thought made total sense. Yet at the Smallholder the previous weekend, I had producers moaning saying this new venue would not work, the date wouldn’t work, they shouldn’t have said they were going to attend…………Well my reading of this was the Smallholder was too quiet, producers therefore had too much time to chat amongst themselves and the moaning began to take hold. Of course moving venue and date was risking, but at least give it a chance! Attending an event in a negative attitude never works, and I know because I’ve done it too!

Ian and I had a super drive across to St Davids on Saturday morning; the sun shining made our early start worthwhile and we had to be early as we had so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers attaending. When we’d parked up, our first stop had to be Preseli Coffee whose mocha coffee I absolutely love. If Preseli stand is at a food festival, then my day is off to a good start. Preseli coffee owner Deryck’s stand was in the concession area, the Food-To-Go, or Sit-Down-And-Have-A-Chat-Area and I was pleased to see that another of my regular food festival gripes had been addressed. Tables and chairs were already set out here and it proved a very popular meeting/resting place as I called back here quite a few times during the day to check it out. Of course the weather helped this area, if the rain had arrived that would have caused problems, my only concern was perhaps more tables and chair were needed. As it was, people were happy to sit on the grass and enjoy a delicious array of local produce, goodness me you were spoilt for choice and there was no reason at all for people to leave hungry. It was a joy to see fresh fish, courtesy of Solva Fish. Fisherman Jonno had come up with a new idea of a fish box, containing a lobster, 2 dressed crab, and four sustainable fillets of fish, I think it’s a brilliant idea, plus Solva Fish can also mail order. I think this is going to be a winner for them and will help the people who are struggling to buy Welsh fish.

Walking through to the main food producer area, which was well laid out, each producer under bright blue and yellow pagodas made for a very cheery setting. But early on, I again met some producers that were saying it was quiet, people would be off to the beach etc, etc. Well it was a quiet start, but if I’m on holiday, getting up at the crack of dawn and rushing around is not holiday, it’s like work!!! The team from CADW were brilliant and justifiably proud of this wonderful setting. They have got really behind this new venture and I’m sure it will help them in the future. Early in the afternoon I asked CADW lady on the gate about numbers through and was given a very accurate 2,000, though it wasn’t even 2.00. Brian Powdrill has since emailed me and given me the official, verified figures through the gate were 2,220 on Saturday and 3,815 on Sunday. So if producers didn’t have a good time then maybe they need to reassess their trade stand and find other ways to tempt punters to taste and buy. We cannot escape the fact that the recession continues and here in Wales trade seems harder and harder, but if producers want to survive then they’ll have no option but to keep thinking and trying different ways to tempt visitors to spend. Some stands had made an extra effort, including Cwm Deri who had some festival offers including Pembrokeshire Pimms, which was delicious! Mike had a board advertising his specials and it appeared to be working well. Other producers did work hard to smile at punters and engage them in conversation, whilst the odd few, sat at the back of their stands and did not look at all happy, sure you can guess which stands did best. I must also mention that I was pleased to see many stands that had business cards and literature out too, another of soapbox gripes.

The guys parking cars were brilliant, so polite and helpful, in fact everyone I chatted to was friendly, not a grumble in sight. I am amazed that this festival has got together a team of volunteers willing not only to give up, in this case the bulk of a Bank Holiday a weekend, but to attend the necessary meetings to, which take place before and after the event. Founders Julia and Brian must take much of the credit for building such a great team.

I think more tables and chairs in the concession area, more waste bins dotted around, and more signage showing where the different areas are would help but with a new venue, I cannot imagine the headaches the team have had. As always though with the RWFF they never rest on their laurels and always listen to and want feedback, just make it constructive. I caught the end of a cookery demo which proved popular and I wonder if this event might consider using some of the producers, next year to showcase their companies. Another constant soapbox gripe is that anyone doing a cookery demo uses produce from the event, along with local chefs, thinking that this is  what these events are all about, bringing communities together and pushing our local food, which in this case was with a really wild theme. I’m sure there was a map somewhere but guess I missed it, but these are always a great idea.

So my congratulations to the RWFF team for your bravery in taking on a new venue and your determination and planning to make it work. You must all be shattered, but delighted in what you managed to achieve this weekend. Whoever said prayers in the cathedral for warm sunny weather, deserves a pat on the back too!
See you next year!  

 
 

Tradestands For Royal Welsh Food Hall – Can You Afford To Go?

28 Mar

One of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers kindly sent me through the application forms for the Royal Welsh Food Hall. For a single fronted stand the cost is £580, with vat it takes it to £696. For a corner stand the cost is £680, plus vat makes it £816.  I’m not 100% certain what prices were paid last year. I did post on last year’s event on 25th July, quoting prices of £750 & £900 inc. vat, but no offical confirmation that these were correct. I’ll try get confirmation so we get a better idea, year on year. For 2010 the information sent through to me showed a single fronted stand £355 plus vat and £405 plus vat for a corner stand. In 2011 prices I have show £600 plus vat which is £750 for a single fronted stand and £700 plus vat for a corner stand which is £875.

Regular readers and our Best Of Welsh & Border producers will know my views of RWAS , it’s not one of my favourite events. The  Food Hall in my view leaves a lot to be desired, despite wag paying a fortune for this new uninspired building and the regular payment they make to RWAS too.

I am assuming that the Farmers’ Market will run again this year; but I’ve not heard officially. I do hope that it is because it’s the only way that the smaller producers can avoid being excluded from the RWAS, purely because of the high tradestand prices. The downside is that the market cannot take a huge number of stands, so that again disappoints some. At last year’s Winter Fair, there was a Farmer’s Market in front of the Member’s new building, but again I’ve not been told if this will be running at the Spring Fair or RWAS itself. That idea was good, but there were flaws in the execution and organisation that need improving. But my moan is s if visitors to RWAS cannot get local food easily, then wag food, along with wag itself are not doing their jobs properly. With all the pomp that RWAS comes with, surely this should be wag’s duty to showcase Welsh food. Wag should be bending over backwards to find ways to encourage as many micro and smaller producers to attend as possible. The reason this doesn’t happen is that high stand prices in the Food Hall literally price them out of that market. So it’s down to wag to find these guys alternatives that will allow them to attend too. It’s so easy for wag in their ivory towers not to think of the added costs for producers, apart from producing their food, extra staff, transport, somewhere to stay, it’s a long list of add-ons. But that is fine if they are taking lots of money, but paying out so much money for the Food Hall is not an option for many.

I’m sick and totally fed up of going around the Food Hall and seeing ‘producers’ who often for example only have a token greenhouse in Wales, yet this still qualifies them to get into the Food Hall, even though their reasons for attending is to make supermarket contacts and direct visotrs to supermrkets to by their produce. If this is the game wag food has to play, fair enough, but don’t neglect the micro and small producers. I’m realistic enough to know that some of or micro producers will never, ever want to grow their business, so much so I now dub them ‘pin-money producers’ but take those out of the scenario and we still have a raft of super producers that really need some support. What hope have this group of producers of growing their businesses if wag continue to take this negative attitude year after year? We all know what happens to acorns if they are nutured – but can’t  wag food do this for our micro/smaller producers?

 

 
 

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.

 
 

Food Festival Funding For 2013

11 Feb

This is one of many topics I’m getting rather bored with posting about – but as needs must – here I go again.

I do NOT have details of the festivals wag are funding this year. If I did, our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, would have been the first to know. I’ve told those organisers that still believe I have a hotline to wag food that works, well sadly I don’t. Neither can I, despite my efforts, make the funding list magically appear at the end of each year. Seemingly that is not possible for wag to do. Annoyingly it seems that only us standing on this of the wag fence – standing on the waste ground as it were, that understand that we should have had this vital information months ago. I am totally fed-up of being asked and moaned at because wag have yet to make-their-financial mind up. Although I offer contact details for people to direct their queries to the wag target, I doubt that any/many have taken my advice. But whether the questions are coming from organisers or producers, both sides are concerned, and rightly so in my experience, at wag will then label them as trouble-makers. I’ve even got readers pestering me as a few are looking to book weekends away or organise family gatherings over some festivals. I have no idea what wag think the festivals that are running early supposed to do. Do they assume they will get the money they have asked for, even though they are not one of wag’s Big Three? Or do they decide that they cannot take the risk and pull the plug now and let their festival bite the dust? Organisers are stressing themselves silly, it’s real pull-your-hair-out time for some, which I feel is needless and pointless. But it leaves us with no other option but to wait and wait and wait………. We go to press shortly with our M/April issue. Each year I hope that I will have wag’s funding list by now, which is particularly stupid of me as it has never happened in the last eight years since we first published Welsh Country magazine. So as wag are run out of time as my deadline looms, I shall have to explain to our readers why we have no festival information for them. Negative news is something I try to avoid publishing and most certainly on the food side, but honesty is the best policy and I think it is now time our readers knew how the food side is struggling as wag just take their time. So please no more festival funding questions, just take this as my final assurance that as soon as I receive the funding list from wag that it will be sent to our BOW producers and posted on welshfoodbites.co.uk and welshcountry.co.uk. I can also guarantee you that if you wish to leave comments on any posts, then please do, you have no need to leave your correct name I’m more than happy to have numerous traders, producers, visitors etc. that is fine. All you do need to leave is your email address, and that is it. You can air your views with confidence, because my goodness this food blog is certainly being read judging by our rankings. The only sad news is the powers-that-be haven’t worked out how to action the things you and I so desperately want.

 
 

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.

 
 

Any Hope For Transparency In Welsh Government Food?

19 Jun

Relatedpost 15/6: Wag Food – More like a Game of Smoke & Mirrors

Is there any hope that wag’s food department will operate in a transparent manner? Regular readers will know of the effort I’ve put in to get answers from wag food on many issues raised with us by producers over the years. At one stage the Press Office refused to answer my questions, leaving the Freedom Of Information Act as my only recourse, but then with varying degrees of success. There’s now been a change of heart by the Press Office and they are now, in theory, willing to answer my questions, but annoyingly not all of them! Guess I’m just not asking the ‘right’ questions! My latest questions related to the food festival organiser’s conference held last November for which wag paid Miller Research £8,712.00 to organise. I only wanted to know which 40 producers wag invited, how many producers actually attended, how wag decided which producers to ask and what the outcome of the conference was. But I’m told that wag have no further comment to add to their statement, shown again below:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
“The Welsh Government organised this conference to enable us to understand some of the issues facing producers and food festival organisers and help us to jointly review – and agree – future funding criteria. Representatives from both funded and non funded festivals attended, and around 40 producers were invited. Miller Research secured the tender to lead on the event. Given that this is the first time we have held such a conference, it is wrong to suggest that the Welsh Government has “always run it.” Clearly, it is important that we listen and talk to the people involved in this important part of our economy. Comments made by the attendees were reflected in the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13 and helped to improve our understanding of some of the issues faced by the food sector.”

I blogged this conference issue on 14th November and not surprisingly I did get some varying feedback from producers who did get invited, starting with those cross that they didn’t get an opportunity to speak. Because my feedback was varied I wanted the official view but to no avail. So although I must thank wag for at last putting into action what I have been telling them for years – wag must communicate with producers,and it must be a 2-way communication – this didn’t seem to be work at this conference. I’d like to take wag’s word that the comments made on the day reflected the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13, but I’m a journalist and if they refuse to supply me that information, even if it’s not for publication, I’m not sure I can.

Wag’s criteria this year state that small festivals have to have at least 25 stands, with 80% to be food. So in effect, festival organisers will be forced to accept any stand that applies, even if it means they have 4 beer producers, 6 cheese makers or 6 preserve producers to ensure they meet wag’s target. But if that ticks one of wag’s boxes and the festival gets their funding, well that’s ok. Well ok, unless you are one of those producers that have so much competition in the food tent, with so few punters to sell to, that the event is not profitable and then as so often happens, it’s far from ok. I cannot believe for a moment that this point
was raised and agreed at that conference without even one trader pointing out the fact that too many producers selling the same product, cannot ensure they all have a profitable day!

I do wonder why wag fund food festivals, if it’s not first and foremost for the producers. It simply has to be, which is why I will not be convinced that this conference was worthwhile if I cannot get the information I ask for. Goodness knows what the big secret is about it. But in case any of you are not aware, in past years the festival organisers have been invited to wag conferences to tell them budgets have been cut again and what boxes they will be obliged to tick. It’s quite easy for you to check what I’m saying – just ask a food festival organiser. My only reason to tackle these many and varied food issues is because they have been brought to my attention by either some of our Best of Welsh & Border producers or producers that I have been talking to. My loyalty is to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, to the chefs and the restaurants, eateries and hotels etc. that are also working with us. My objective as should be wag’s is to give these guys all the help they can, especially in these tough trading times.

I’ve no idea what game wag food are playing, but it’s not constructive, certainly not helpful, unquestionably not transparent, nor in the best interests of our producers. Which is wag food’s reason for being, surely……………….

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