Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Moo-Ving Tale of Success; Campaign Is Praised by MP Hilary Benn

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Moo-Ving Tale of Success; Campaign Is Praised by MP Hilary Benn

Article excerpt

Byline: Jane Hall

THE thorny issue of MPs' expenses has left a sour taste in both taxpayers' and government officials mouths.

But Environment Secretary Hilary Benn's palate had a welcome cleansing yesterday when he dropped in to see a Northumberland ice cream producer.

And while at Wheelbirks Farm near Stocksfield, Mr Benn found time to support The Journal's buy, use, eat local food and drink campaign.

The Labour MP for Leeds Central hailed The Journal's Taste North East England initiative launched in January last year as a "great campaign" that is helping to utilise public support for both our farmers and struggling rural areas.

Mr Benn also championed the part agricultural events play in bringing the countryside and the general public closer together - just under two weeks before the annual Northumberland County Show to which The Journal is for the first time bringing its hugely successful Taste food and drink festival format.

He said of Taste: "It sounds like a great campaign to me and I wish it every success. There is a growing awareness of where our food comes from, and it is good when we can support Britain's farmers.

"We all want a successful and profitable British farming industry, and here (Wheelbirks) we have a wonderful example of what your campaign is all about. Some of the milk from here goes to make award-winning cheese and some to produce ice cream which is bought locally and supports the local economy.

"It is about reconnecting ourselves with our food because we have been very disconnected. We should all be supporting campaigns like yours (Taste)." On the subject of agricultural shows Mr Benn added: "They are very important for the countryside and the general public. They show what is going on in the countryside." Mr Benn was visiting Wheelbirks Farm in the picturesque Tyne Valley to see how brothers Hugh and Tom Richardson have transformed their family's fortunes since the foot and mouth crisis by homing in on the public's sweet-toothed cravings.

Mr Benn also discussed the Richardsons' plans to celebrate their success by adding an ice cream parlour to their thriving business. The Richardsons are an example of how many farmers have successfully diversified to meet the changing demands of living and working in the countryside - although Hugh admits he was reluctant initially to take the ice cream route.

"We used to run a war games site for many years and then Tom suggested we do ice cream. I said 'I'm not going to stand around on a Sunday afternoon selling ice cream!' Now I am," he said.

Tom and Hugh are the fifth generation of their family to work Wheelbirks Farm, and the brothers decided in 2001 to set up their ice cream business using milk from their 300-strong herd of Jersey cows.

They supply 18 shops, delicatessens and farmers' markets across the North East. …

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