Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Food Chain Link Leads Way from Farm to Store; Farming

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Food Chain Link Leads Way from Farm to Store; Farming

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jennifer Mackenzie

FARMERS and small-scale food producers have been urged to follow the lead of a North initiative to boost their communities' economies.

Northumberland farmer and chairman of the Government's Sustainable Farming and Food Implementation Group, Sir Don Curry, has announced the expansion of the Best of the Lakes range, which offers 250 local products from 32 suppliers to Asda stores in the region.

The project is being driven by Cumbrian livestock farmer John Geldard and his team, whose vision was to reconnect the food chain, linking small specialist regional food producers and major retailers, and at the same time reduce food miles.

In 2002, Asda recognised the importance of local products, created a local sourcing team and began working with John and Plumgarths, his local sourcing hub.

The Plumgarths Asda Local Sourcing Initiative was subsequently launched to bring locally produced food and drink to supermarket shelves and signal a change in the way supermarkets work with Britain's smallest suppliers.

Since then, the venture has been extended from Asda Kendal to 12 of the chain's stores throughout the North-West.

The partnership has set the standard as the business model for Asda to achieve its local sourcing strategy. The model has been replicated in 13 similar regional food sourcing hubs in the UK. Today the chain works with more than 400 local suppliers, offering more than 5,000 products to its 321 stores.

One recommendation of Sir Don Curry's Future of Farming and Food Report was for farmers to diversify. "Back in 2002, I highlighted a need for farmers to work together to provide great local products. Since then, consumer demand for local produce has gained momentum along with the quest to demonstrate sustainability," he said.

"This encouraging trend provides a very welcome and timely reminder that this is an expanding market which is not only important for local producers, but will also help sustain local communities. …

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