Shop local; it’s never mattered more to Yorkshire stores and farms – Bishop of Ripon

OVER the last few months, I have been doing far less travelling about in my car, and far more zooming online in my office.

Ben and Emma Mosey run Minskip Farm Shop.
Ben and Emma Mosey run Minskip Farm Shop.

Much attention has been paid to local backdrops: book cases and cats have all gained familiarity and notoriety.

On a more serious note, for those who have had to use kitchen tables or children’s bedrooms for online meetings, there has been challenge and discomfort in the use of space that would normally be considered private becoming public.

Because I have not been out in my car very much, the shape of my day has changed too. Less travel to and from meetings, events and appointments has given me time to start most days with exercise.

Dr Helen-Ann Hartley is the Bishop of Ripon.

I’ve joined the local Ripon Runners club who have kept going with weekly challenges for club members to do on their own or with small distanced groups (following the latest Government guidelines, of course).

My runs have enabled me to find new paths along the riverbank, and streets that join up in ways I hadn’t appreciated before. I’ve got to know my local area in new ways, and I’m glad about that.

When I have ventured out in the car, it’s been to go shopping for food and other essential supplies. One of the shops I have enjoyed visiting the most is our nearest farm shop in Minskip.

The shop’s resilience and imagination at dealing with the challenges of lockdown have been inspiring to observe.

The farm sgohp at Minskip, like all other stores, has had to adapt following the Covid-19 lockdown.

Plans to open a café had to be placed on hold when lockdown started. Showing a considerable deal of ingenuity, the farm shop adapted to offering a delivery service to residents across quite a wide area, and their newly appointed head chef was put on driving duty.

I’m pleased to say that another adaptation led them to offer delicious hot food to collect, and so ‘Iain the legend’ (that’s the chef) was able to finally show us just how good and creative in the kitchen he is.

Of course Minskip isn’t the only farm shop to have responded to local needs in recent months and grown because of it.

My social media timelines have been full of photos of locally produced fresh produce with encouragement to get creative following recipes.

It is important to support local shops in towns like Ripon, says the Bishop of Ripon.

Many local businesses have adapted their production lines to help support key workers through the making of PPE and anti-bacterial hand gel. This has strengthened community connections, and shown commitment and confidence.

By investing in a real and present need, the hope must surely be that the goodwill created will be rewarded with customer loyalty and interest in the future.

And this is an important point. Local isn’t just about preserving what has been, but rather looking hopefully to the future as something worth investing in.

Our rural communities, fragile and yet resilient, need that. As lockdown eases, more shops are reopening, and signs for distanced queuing, perspex screens, and hand-sanitising stations are becoming normalised to the extent that it’s hard to recall what it was like to shop before the Covid-19 crisis began.

Some (myself included) are a little sceptical of economically-driven policies that seem to prioritise profit over public health. We haven’t defeated the virus but are learning to co-exist with it.

Caution is still needed when it comes to opening up, and while tourism is a vital source of revenue to our region, images of piles of litter left behind for local residents to pick up and dispose of are deeply concerning.

We’ve seen extreme kindness in recent months, but we’ve also seen extreme selfishness, and the two don’t sit comfortably with each other.

A word that keeps appearing on my radar is ‘hefted’, a word that is usually applies to land that a farm animal becomes attached to.

Human beings, like animals, are all rooted somewhere, and it’s worth giving some thought to where we feel we are rooted or connected to.

Even if we don’t feel we belong, we all have a story that enables us to frame our identity.

Sometimes it’s easy to give voice to that, sometimes not. Stories can be joyful but they can also be full of pain, and we’ve seen plenty examples of that recently.

I’ve noticed that several shops near me come with family history or a passion that drives a person to want to share it with others.

When I think of my immediate local shops, butchers, bakers and an independent bookshop here in Ripon come to mind.

While it’s tempting to go for convenience and order online, I hope I can make a conscious effort to shop local in the future as much as I can.

These are businesses that have invested in place for a reason; they are hefted to our streets and market places, and their future matters too.

The Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley is the Bishop of Ripon.