Friday, 4 July 2008

A taste of freedom

I’ve always loved an excursion – a chance to escape the monotonous work routine with a sanctioned day away from the classroom or office.

Earlier this week I went on a farm visit organised by London Food Link and Greener Food. The aim of the trip was to introduce restaurateurs, chefs, caterers and students to some local producers. It seems incredible, but there are currently no wholesale suppliers that specialise in selling and delivering local produce to London. Instead, you have to deal directly with the producers – which can seem a daunting task if you have no idea how or where to find them. London Food Link provides a database on their website which helps. But if you want to be assured of the quality of the product you are buying, nothing beats actually meeting the farmers, and the product, face to face.

First stop was a cattle farm in Kent

where they also grow acres of beautiful lavender

then a sheep farm in Sussex

ending with a visit to the Lighthouse bakery which has relocated from Northcote Rd in London to Sussex.

Perhaps it was the perfect weather conditions that made everyone so positive and good natured but all of the producers we met were incredibly passionate about their work, and the farmers seemed to genuinely care about the welfare of their animals. As one farmer explained: “I want a stress free life and I want them to have a stress free life”.

As is often the case when you start looking for answers, you find more questions. Is crossbreeding unethical if the sole purpose is to create animals that are better for human consumption? Is the use of pesticides in farming more damaging to the environment than using fuel to transport produce from organic farms that are further away? Do animals go to heaven when they die?

Ultimately for me, the most important question is ‘does it taste good’?

Farmer James sacrificed one of his lambs so we could answer this question.

It was without a doubt the best lamb I have ever tasted -melt in your mouth, juicy succulent lamb sandwiched between some Lighthouse bakery bread with home made mint sauce and salad.

If that lamb is now looking down from heaven: thank you.


Charlotte said...

Hi Shelagh,

Really glad you enjoyed the trip!

You might be interested to know that a few of the suppliers on our database do indeed act as wholesalers or ‘producer hubs’ specialising in local foods – in fact Tony from Natural Farms in one, supplying meat from small and medium sized farms in Kent and Sussex. There’s also Bank Farm in Kent (, who supply their own free range eggs and a variety of fruit and veg, meat, dairy and so on from other local producers, and Local Food Alliance, also in Kent ( who do something similar. A great outfit in East Sussex called We Love Local ( currently only delivers to Brighton and the surrounding area, but they’re planning on expanding to London soon.

I agree that we need more ways of getting of these kind of operations though, and I’m hoping to put together an event in the autumn looking at local produce with a focus on sustainable distribution.

London Food Link

Shelagh Ryan said...

Sounds like a great idea. Look forward to it.