Thursday, 28 February 2013
Friday, 22 February 2013
Thursday, 17 January 2013
Sunday, 19 August 2012
Sunday, 12 August 2012
Friday, 8 June 2012
Sunday, 22 April 2012
One of the great benefits of the internet is we can all discover a different view or approach to obtaining a similar goal. The talking Trees comment on my previous posting shows that we are all trying to achieve the same thing. While also highlighting a different set of problems.
The neighbour who sees anyone selling any food as unfair competition, although I might suggest that hot-dogs etc, might not be real food. Although perhaps that is the real problem as selling real food highlights the problem that far to often it is cheap “Junk” food that is what is most often sold.
It is this often the low cost of the cheap junk that distorts the market. Making real food appear more expensive. In the convenience shop in the large village close to my village, there are no shops in my village, it is possible to buy a pack of sausages for £1.00 that’s about $1.60 us, for eight of these things. I call them things as they should not be called sausages as they only contain 9% meat the minimum the law allows. Often if you eat in a café it will be this type of sausage that is served. So even if folks make a contentious choice to avoid this type of food in their shopping basket, you can get caught out when eating out.
However, when there are sausages like this, the high quality products that are sold at Farmers Markets and Food Festivals, will look expensive. But the point I was trying to make in the previous post, was that many Producers and Farmers are often reliant upon the advice of a small group of advisor’s that will say “charge more for your product”. While they do need a fair reward for their time, effort and product, far to often the prices are just to high. I have seen Sausages at £6-7 per pound ($10-$11.50) at Farmers Markets. Yet I have also found a couple of local butchers who are using local animals, making their own sausages and selling them at a reasonable cost. They are still getting a premium, but they understand their customers and that folks do not have unlimited funds.
Further, I would love to see the diversity that the talking tree has at her small market. There is nothing wrong with having several Farmers selling similar products, but so often it ends up being the premium products. Such as Venison, Game, or premium cuts of meat that are fine for restaurants, but most people can not afford to buy that often.
Apart from one or two exceptions, there are very few of the farmers that will bring along any part of the fifth quarter, the offal. I know that here there is a cultural divide between the US and the UK, but offal can and does make some wonderful dishes. In fact it has just occurred to me as I write, I did not see any liver pate. Something that can be a great product and one that earns a decent premium especially if done well.
Yet the main point is that most of the farmers at the Food Festival were not really selling everyday food, nor at prices that will garner them regular sales. While Farm Shops can be a great Tourist Destination where you can also do a bit of shopping, they have very little to do with the real food shopping that we all have to do. Most of the Farm Shops also have a Café, and are frequently away from the places where people normally go shopping. Thus the Farmers are often turning their farms into a visitors centres, rather than a place where people would want to go food shopping. It is this disconnection of Farming, Food and the Consumer that is being perpetuated by ignoring the vast majority of the population.
Yesterday, I went to a Local Food Festival. I was fairly lucky regarding the weather, as while it had rained earlier, while wandering around Bishop Auckland Castle, the home of the Bishop of Durham, the rain held off.
It was a very well attended event and while I made some wonderful discoveries, there is a sameness to many of the exhibitors. While I am very much in favour of good well produced local food, often the farmers are making and producing rather similar products. Sausages, Cheese, Bread.
Part of the problem seems to be that Farmers have been encouraged to diversify and add value to the food they produce and sell. However, as the people providing the advice and guidance are a small pool of people, all the farmers are often given the same suggestions. Therefore, the farmers and producers end up creating products that are very similar. As long as there is a demand for these products then the Farmers will have created long term businesses. But I am often left wondering who buys, or should that be who can afford to buy many of these products. As frequently there are healthy premiums placed on these foods.
While there are plenty of people that are interested in good food, this was evident by the 30,000 people who attended the festival. However, while folks were buying the foods and products, I was also constantly overhearing people complaining about the prices. As people will buy many of these products as an occasional treat, or for a seasonal festival such as Easter or Christmas, these are far from everyday foods.
I am well aware that markets like the Bishop Auckland Food Festival are a place to showcase what the Farmers and Producers create, there was no one there selling or promoting everyday foods. There was no one selling locally grown Vegetables as an example. Most were promoting their Farm shops. As the name imply's, these are shops that are based on the farm. Therefore, to sell their produce requires people to travel to them. With the price of travel going up as well as people starting to genuinely reduce their travel for environmental reasons, the logic of having a “Farm Shop” on the farm starts to look less logical. This comes back to the same small group of farm business advisor’s “Selling” everyone the same ideas.
Sooner or latter there will be a farmer or a group of farmers that will see the logic of opening Farm shops in towns rather than on the farm. And not just looking only at the premium end of a saturated market but the majority market products that most people can afford.
I personally love Farmers Markets and Food Festivals, they are far away from the food(s) that the majority eat regularly and the way the majority shop. While Farmers Markets and Food Festivals are a great way for Farmers and Producers to meet the public and their customers, far to often the people that will visit a food festival are the affluent. The normal person can not afford these foods. I can see a growing gulf between the Farmers and the real consumer rather than these markets and festivals closing the gap.
There were a couple of exceptions at this Food Festival and one of them was a company supplying Pink Veal and you can read my posting on them at http://wearvalleyherbsandspices.blogspot.co.uk/
Thursday, 19 April 2012
One of the problems of working for yourself, especially if you work alone, can be simply that you do not have someone to bounce ideas off. Additionally as I have been working like a Chinese worker in an iPhone factory, I don’t often have the time to think ideas through.
Therefore, I took some time out yesterday to get out and away from the core work and just mull over a few ideas. As the business has been growing slowly but steadily, I wanted to try and work out what my next goal needs to be. While I have a few options, I wanted to think the ideas through.
So I headed into Bishop, as I wanted to look critically at the option of taking a shop. While there are a number of empty retail units about, the owners of these premises are totally unrealistic about the rents they expect. This frequently is why they are empty. Thus, I wanted to see if there were any gaps in the types of products I am selling or in allied areas. So I decided to just wander all along the main shopping area and even further along.
This brought a rather wonderful discovery for me. First was a very good “Greengrocer”. While I have found some good ones, this stood out as being a couple of steps better. It was while in there that I started to talk to the woman who was managing this shop. Anyway, when I mentioned that I was selling herbs and spices, this was just in conversation, she was asking for my contact details to pass on to the owners. It also emerged that they had a butchers shop opposite and I went across there after I left there. Again I was impressed by the quality I saw in there. Further, as they were emphasising that the meat came from local farmers, they were ticking the right boxes for me.
Anyway, with my shopping completed, I made my way home and by the time I got home I had a clear plan of what to attempt with the business. As well as a couple of meal ideas for the next couple days too. The sausages from this new butchers were excellent.
Now in true Monty Python fashion, here’s something completely different. When I got home, I had not been in for ten minutes when the phone went. I had spotted an Osprey a few days before and it was such a close clear sighting that I had been able to partial reading of the rings. This was important as there are now Two Pairs nesting in Northumberland, and it looks as though this was one of the females that I saw.
I was strange how this sighting came about, as one of my fellow villagers had said they had seen an Eagle. I was told it must be a youngster as it was still small, and it look shabby and tired. Well if it was a bird on migration the shabby and tired could apply, but as juveniles are the same size as the adults, I had my doubts about it being an Eagle. Also the general location just did not appear to match my understanding of roost sites. So early the next day I went out to look and see if I could spot the bird. I was all but ready to start heading home when I thought I would look at the sort of locations I would have expected an Eagle or a Hawk would have roosted. Within ten minutes, I had spotted the Osprey. It was not tatty or shabby, in fact it looked in quite good condition. I had about seven or eight minutes of good observation before the bird stretched its wings and took to the air from the tree it had roosted in. I was not really in a good position to observe the flight away, but at one point it did look as though there were two of them in the air. Now that would have been very unusual as the male and female normally make their own (separate) migration. Meeting up at the breeding site. However, I am now informed they may have joined together and were looking for potential nesting sites. So I don’t know if this is what I had observed.
Going back online and looking for the news story again, I spotted a new news story. This one was about a Hawk that had been rescued from a tree. I had to read this as in my mind birds are often found in trees.
However, it was true. As it was a captive bird, and the Jessie that are fitted to the legs of Falconry birds had become entangled in the tree. Further it was a Red Tailed Hawk, not a native British Bird but an American one. As I knew the location and I had lived very near there.... Well if I had not moved that would have been a new sighting for me. But at least the headline made me smile.