SW awards target eco-friendly farms

12 October 2001

SW awards target eco-friendly farms

A new awards scheme in

the south-west is looking

to hear from all sorts of

businesses, including food

and farming ones, that

have shown how making

money and improving the

environment can go hand in

hand. Jacqui Cuff explains

THE scene was set in June this year when a large audience of local farmers, businessmen, politicians and environmentalists gathered in the Winter Gardens on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare for the launch of the Hand in Hand Award Scheme. The scheme is being led by the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) with the joint backing of the Environment Agency and DEFRA.

Michael Meacher made a speech in support of the awards by video (he was delayed abroad negotiating on climate change or he would have been there personally) and Jonathon Porritt and Jonathan Dimbleby helped get things off to a flying start.

The awards are based on SWRDAs firm belief that in the south-west, environmental improvement and improved economic performance, far from being incompatible, can go hand in hand. The south-west region is home to a rich and diverse environment – more than 12% of the regions economy in some way relates to the land.

These awards seek projects across four categories, transport, waste management, renewable energy and food and farming. The deadline for applications is Nov 31, 2001.

According to the organisers, in the food and farming category they are looking for businesses or organisations that show environmentally-sensitive ways of production and processing that have lead to better economic performance or initiatives that increase the level of local sourcing of food produce.

Some 80% of land in the south-west is in agricultural use, though the sector accounts for only 3.7% of the regions employment. And while the regions countryside may not be defined by its agricultural employment, farming is very important in shaping and maintaining that landscape.

As far as environmentally-sensitive, and particularly organic, production is concerned the south-west region has a fast growing reputation. Tim Budden and his wife Jo are a case in point. They now have a well-established business selling organic beef and lamb nationwide by mail-order from their own farm in Devon as well as other meats from other local organic farmers.

Jo organises the marketing and mail-order side while Tim is a professional organic advisor as well as running the farm. Their farm is a demonstration farm for the Soil Association and for the Elm Farm Research Centre.

Although affected by foot-and-mouth this year, the farm normally has a busy schedule of farm walks for a wide range of visitors including farmers, environmental groups and government officials.

&#42 Regional wines

The south-west is also becoming better known for its regional wines. Sharpham Vineyard has 4ha (10 acres) of vines on the Sharpham estate, just outside Totnes and the business, established in the 1960s, remains a family run concern. The wine is mainly available locally in Devon, where Sharpham has an especially strong connection and the wine can also be found in many of the local restaurants. Sharpham also sells to selected supermarkets and by mail-order. The wines are not fully organic but as Duncan Schwab, the marketing manager explained, no herbicides or pesticides are used. Sharpham also produces a variety of organic soft cheeses from its own herd of 60 Jersey cattle.

There are also many initiatives underway in the region that focus on local sourcing. Riverford Organic Vegetables, based in Buckfastleigh, Devon, is not only one of the countrys biggest organic vegetable growers but also the UKs biggest farm-based box scheme. It sends out about 4500 boxes a week.

There are five different types of vegetable boxes and the service is available for delivery in much of the south and west of England. As Deirdre Makepeace, Riverfords marketing manager explained, the box scheme runs all year round so at certain times they have to buy in or even import some of the produce.

But around 90% of their produce is grown either on the Riverford farm or on one of the neighbouring farms that form part of the south-Devon Organic Producers co-operative.

Yeo Valley, the Somerset-based organic dairy manufacturer, has meanwhile teamed up with other Somerset organic dairy companies to launch a new delivery scheme called Yeo Valley Organic Direct. This aims to provide a convenient way for customers to order all their organic diary products from a local distributor, explained project manager Sophie Goode. These will include village shops, farm shops and organic farmers.

&#42 Extra income

The idea is that distributors will be able to earn extra income from the scheme. Although Yeo Valley Organic Direct will initially only operate in Somerset there are plans to expand it in the future.

Another good example of local sourcing is the Real Bath Breakfast project, which guarantees a breakfast that is truly local. Organised by Envolve, a charity that promotes sustainable businesses and tourism, the Real Bath Breakfast rewards businesses that can prove most of the ingredients in the meal have been produced (not just supplied) within a 40-mile radius of Bath Abbey.

According to Kathy James, Envolves sustainable tourism officer, the environment gains through reduced food miles, traffic pollution, congestion, chemical use, refrigeration energy and packaging waste. And the local economy gains as the initiative supports local producers and suppliers and creates local jobs.

Jonathan Porritt (second from left) and members of the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) gather at the June 2001 conference.

Above: Jonathan Dimbleby chairs a panel discussion on the merits of local production. Below: Riverford Organic Veg claims to operate

the UKs biggest

farm-based box


Real Bath Breakfast food miles

Real Bath Breakfast food miles (the distance the food was transported from producer to consumer) compared to the same products bought in a typical supermarket.

Local produce travelled a total of 95 miles while the same products off the supermarket shelf journeyed 2050 miles.

Real Bath Breakfast Supermarket

Bacon 30 700

Sausages 30 100

Eggs 6 100

Tomatoes 20 1000

Mushrooms 6 50

Bread 3 100

Total 95 2050


&#8226 Hand in Hand Award: www.southwestrda.org.uk/rda/Hand_Awards.shtml

&#8226 South West Regional Development Agencyy: 01392-214747 www.southwestrda.org.uk

&#8226 David Richards – Strategic Food and Drink Executive, SWRDA: 01392-229552

&#8226 Jo and Tim Budden: 01769-560292

&#8226 Sharpham Vineyard: 01803-732203 www.sharpham.com

&#8226 Riverford Organic: 01803-762720 www.riverford.co.uk

&#8226 Yeo Valley: 01278-652243

&#8226 Real Bath Breakfast – Kathy James: 01225-787913

&#8226 Sustain: 020-7837 1228

Top: Part of Yeo Valleys swelling dairy range. Above: Yeo Valley Organic Direct is a new delivery scheme.

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