Mission to revive food credentials of riverside town

Alexandra Porozova, who is trying to bring more local food to more local customers.
Alexandra Porozova, who is trying to bring more local food to more local customers.
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A globe-trotting student is calling on Yorkshire farmers to start a food revolution in Tadcaster.

Russian food enthusiast Alexandra Porozova is on a fact finding mission to find out what Tadcaster’s food scene could be missing and how it could be put right.

Her efforts form part of a co-ordinated programme to develop Tadcaster’s shopping and visitor attractions under the banner of the Tadcaster and Rural Community Interest Company.

Alex has studied in Finland, Spain, France and Italy, but she was attracted to Tadcaster because of the “huge potential” of the town.

Through a series of farmer surveys and high street research, Alex hopes to develop food brands grown in the Tadcaster area capable of enticing shoppers into the town’s streets and food market.

“I really like Tadcaster for its historic buildings and riverside but I have learnt that many locals want a greater variety of shops and particularly food shops,” she said.

“We could do with another bakery here and the market could be expanded. I’ve had a reasonable response from farmers but the majority of food grown here is in bulk quantities, like wheat and barley.”

Her ambition is to develop supply chains from the farms surrounding Tadcaster and raise the profile of food shopping in the town.

Local Butcher Nick Devine of Devine Meats said that good relationships with farmers are important. He sees provenance and trust as key to the meat trade and food in general.

“If you take the South Milford farm away, everything is from within a radius of three miles or closer,” said Nick. “We have always sourced our meat close to Tadcaster because it’s what a lot of customers want.”

But he acknowledges that there is a challenge to draw in customers.

“The A64 goes round the town so people have to make a conscious effort to come here. Wetherby is only down the road and a lot of people would say there is no comparison between the towns for shopping.”

Church Fenton farmer Phil Harrison opened his own green grocers – Sycamore Farm Shop - in the town after he heard how enthusiastic shoppers were for a new green grocers selling local food. The move was an extension of his farm shop six miles outside Tadcaster and has served as a case study for Alex’s community food project.

“The reason behind the move to Tadcaster was because it was my local town and easy to commute to. There were plenty of empty shops and everyone was keen about having a green grocer in the town.”

However, Phil has had mixed results, and while some products fly off the shelves, he has come to understand the change of culture needed in the town.

Phil said: “The traditional way of shopping has gone. Housewives would shop daily but now Saturday is the only shopping day. I can always tell when the supermarket has sold out of something as we get new faces coming in asking for the same thing. My initial thoughts were that we could have a £3,000 a week business, when in reality we are lucky to turnover £1,500.”

The challenge of increasing the number of visitors to Tadcaster is like a jigsaw, with some pieces not even in the box, according to Tadcaster and Rural Community Interest Company chief executive David Gluck.

“Our purpose is to facilitate the social, economic and environmental regeneration of Tadcaster and the surrounding rural area and villages surrounding it,” he said. “If you walk down the High Street you see empty properties, some derelict shops and a limited range of shops. We have been set up to address this.”

After only being founded at the start of the year, David says the initiative is on the cusp of something special.

“We feel that there is a huge opportunity for this area to have its own food festival. Our market would benefit from more stalls and more high quality produce.”