Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of buying locally grown and sourced food – reducing food miles, celebrating our gourmet greats and championing the producers in our midst. Here we take a closer look at some of our local food and drink heroes
If you appreciate well grown, produced, brewed and bred food, you’re living in a great part of the world to embrace it. Across the lush valleys of Wales, throughout the rich plains of Cheshire and across the fertile lands of Shropshire, the Shire patch is one of gourmet greatness.
Changing consumer preferences also make this a good time to be one of those aforementioned producers – as shoppers and eaters, we’re getting pickier and demanding more from our plate than the mass-produced supermarket fodder so many of us were brought up on.
‘Provenance and traceability have always been important to our customers, but we’re seeing a rising interest in this generally among food shoppers,’ says Jon Edwards, managing director of Ludlow Food Centre. ‘Food shoppers are also showing a greater interest in the impact that the production process of the food they buy has on the environment, from the ingredients the food contains and how it is sourced to the packaging it’s presented in.’
Changing times and tastes
‘Looking at the environmental impact of production and packaging is gaining momentum nationally, not just in the food industry but across the board – from toiletries and clothing to plastic-free towns,’ Jon continues. ‘The increasing media coverage of the demise of the high street and adverts from some of the big brands to encourage shoppers to shop locally are also inspiring shoppers to look at their buying habits.’
Now that everyone wants to know about their food provenance, members of the Shire team have been out and about, catching up with food producers around our area. Over the next few pages, we have flagged up some of the most interesting to help you make the most of what’s on offer near you.
Shopping, sampling and celebrating
Bypassing the big supermarkets in favour of more specific retail options is a great way to expand your food knowledge and seek out some rather special suppliers
Town markets offer a wealth of foodie treats and have been doing so for some time – Oswestry’s indoor and outdoor markets, for example, date back to the Middle Ages.
The market in the Shropshire town attracts traders from far and wide, who bring with them a range of bespoke services and goods. Foodies will particularly enjoy the artisan market that takes place on the last Friday of every month, which sells the best in local produce including fresh pies and pastries, meat and fish, cheeses and cakes, and more.
Another good way to find delicacies and get some great advice on seasonal treats is to visit a specialist, such as Porter’s Delicatessen in Llangollen. This family-run deli sources the very best cheese, charcuterie, gourmet foods and hard-to-find ingredients for the benefit of local and visiting shoppers. There is an ever-changing range and the team are always on the lookout for new and delicious gourmet foods.
From farm to fork
But if you want the freshest goods with the fewest possible food miles, it’s best to go direct – which is why farm shops are a great bet for foodies. Offering a mixture of home-grown and locally sourced specialities, a farm shop is a great day out as well as a brilliant way to shop, and there are lots to visit.
A great place to start is Lewis’s Farm Shop in Eyton, near Wrexham, which offers something for everyone all under one roof. Shoppers are welcome to visit the butchery and kitchen, as well as the shop floor, and the talented kitchen team bake an array of sweet and savoury goods daily, all prepared from scratch using the finest ingredients and traditional techniques. Most of its suppliers are right on the doorstep, with bread from Johnstown Bakery in Wrexham, eggs from Nant Ucha Farm in Trevor and a superb selection of cheese from Whitchurch.
Another great local choice is Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, where local producers are celebrated alongside on-site specialities. The main hub is set in 20 acres of farmed land in Flintshire, just 10 minutes’ drive from Chester. This is where shoppers can find the award-winning butchery and deli, a busy café, a food hall packed with independent producers, a smoke shack, adventure play area, and pick-your-own fruit and vegetables.
In Shropshire, one farm shop has become a beacon for local producers in the middle of the Albrighton Estate in Shrewsbury. Battlefield 1403 describes itself as being more than just a farm shop and it’s easy to see why. As well as being one of the best butcheries in the UK, it has a well-stocked deli counter, a shop full of speciality local goodies, an exhibition celebrating the Battle of Shrewsbury, a falconry centre and a café serving great homemade food.
At Ludlow Farmshop, even more food heroes are gathered together and championed by this pioneering site of specialist suppliers. The shop, which was established in 2007, is located in the heart of the Earl of Plymouth’s Oakly Park Estate. The working farm supplies the shop with beef, lamb, pork, venison, game, fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh milk to make cheese and ice cream.
The team are constantly looking for ways to work with more growers, producers and farmers to support both the local economy and the beautiful countryside, and 80 per cent of what is on sale is either made on site or sourced from Shropshire and the surrounding counties.
Popular produce includes local honey, sirloin steaks, fillet of beef, rib of beef on the bone and traditional pork sausages. The team have accepted many awards for their handmade cheeses and homemade pies such as chicken, leek and tarragon pie, and the delicious Eccles cakes are always fast movers.
Another local favourite is Bellis Brothers Farm Shop, an independent family business located between Wrexham and Chester. The store supplies locally sourced produce and treats, from daily essentials to speciality goods such as flavoured oils and local beers.
Bellis Brothers really comes into its own in the summer, when families flock from miles around to pick their own fruit. Bellis Brothers has been growing strawberries in Holt since 1860. Today it grows strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, tayberries, loganberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, rhubarb, peas, beans and pumpkins, opening in mid-June for most fruits and ending the season with pumpkins in October.
Making the meat you eat a treat
A great steak or the perfect sausages can really make a meal – which is why we’re so lucky to have some of the best producers the UK has to offer right on our doorstep
There’s simply no need to import from far and wide to get the very best meat. From award-winning Welsh lamb to famous sausages and beautiful beef, the Shire region has a meat industry of which we should be immensely proud.
One man who knows this only too well is Jamie Ward, an award-winning butcher whose Wrexham-based