Shop window opens for producers

Barney Wrightson of The Homegrown Garden Company on his stall in the food hall last year. Picture by Gerard Binks
Barney Wrightson of The Homegrown Garden Company on his stall in the food hall last year. Picture by Gerard Binks
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Food and drink experts believe the provenance of food remains a top priority for shoppers when making their weekly shopping choices, handing farmers and producers a huge opportunity at this summer’s gastronomic showpieces.

As Yorkshire starts to bask in spring sunshine, the annual programme of food and drink events is beginning, with the first day of the Dales Festival of Food and Drink in Leyburn being held today.

Central to the event is a bustling food hall with 87 exhibitors. Crowds of 12,000 attended over three days last year and it is a chance for smaller, emerging food businesses, many operated by farmers, to raise their profile.

Sandy Carter, the festival’s administrator, is confident the conditions are right for producers to thrive.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to showcase Yorkshire food and drink,” she said.

“People are prepared to pay for quality and are more concerned about where their food comes from. There are definitely more ‘foodies’ around and a lot of people who come on the Saturday are shoppers. The event really is a springboard for new traders to promote their business.”

Heralding the benefits of events such as the Dales festival, Jo Satariano, membership manager at Deliciouslyorkshire, said: “There’s nothing quite like buying food and drink from someone who’s filled with passion and knowledge about what they are selling. Through recipe tips, handy hints, customer care and fantastic tasting food and drink, Artisan producers across Yorkshire are nurturing and rebuilding the producer-customer relationship that disappeared during the rise of convenience shopping.”

As well as in the Dales, major food festivals take place in Malton on 24-25 May and at Ripon Racecourse on 14 June, among others.

Richard Pearson, regional director of the National Farmers’ Union, said food festivals, like agricultural shows, provide a great shop window: “Yorkshire in particular is home to a thriving food and drink industry, which also provides thousands of jobs. So anything that helps promote local food is not only good for farmers and growers, but also benefits the wider rural economy.”

Yorkshire’s food scene has become something of a tourist attraction with Yorkshire Food Finder’s food trails taking visitors to local producers and dining establishments proving a hit for organiser Sue Nelson.

“The people who come on our food trails are committed to quality local produce and are keen to discover Yorkshire’s artisan food and drink producers. As well as the food itself, they love the stories behind the produce and like to find out what makes the producers tick.”

Food event organisers must be on their guard to protect local producers however, Mrs Nelson said.

“Our visitors comment on the number of occasions they visit farm shops and festivals, only to sometimes find that Yorkshire produce isn’t on offer. There are no doubt wonderful producers doing their stuff in Kent, for example, but why are we stocking their wares rather than Yorkshire fare?”

Three days of local food

The Dales Festival of Food and Drink held in Leyburn starts today and ends on Sunday. It is open each day from 10am to 5pm.

Besides the local food on offer in the food hall, there are 40 different beers and ten ciders, all produced by micro-breweries in Yorkshire, to sample at the event’s real ale festival.

One-day adult ticket prices are £8; three-day adult passes are £14 and children under 16 accompanied by an adult are admitted free.

For full details, visit www.dalesfestivaloffood.org