Dorset’s farms and rural businesses are heading into the spotlight as part of a celebration of the people behind the South West’s produce.
Cornish Mutual launched its Real Food Heroes campaign with Dorset-based TV chef Lesley Waters. The South West insurer is now sharing stories from some of its Members involved with food and drink production, from farms, large and small, to artisan producers and retailers. Dorset Farmers’ Markets, café and health food shop Feed the Soul and vegetable producer Bothen Hill are among the farms and businesses being profiled in videos and written features.
Dorset Farmers’ Markets is helping to meet the county’s growing demand for local produce, by running a series of regular markets in towns, from Wimborne in the east to Bridport in the west. Dorset Farmers’ Markets has grown since it was established in 2004, and now has ambitions to expand further by attracting new stallholders, to offer an even more diverse range of local produce. Customers are guaranteed that whatever they buy will have been produced within 30 miles of the market.
As a long-term insurer of Dorset Farmers’ Markets, Cornish Mutual has now committed to a three-year sponsorship package with the organisation. The support will include marketing and brand development advice as well as helping Dorset Farmers’ Markets move towards sustainable packaging, which organisers hope will be another selling point, setting them apart from supermarkets.
Situated just outside the village of Godmanstone, around five miles from Dorchester, Feed the Soul has earned a loyal local following and is also becoming a destination for people from further afield seeking out fresh, organic, plant-based food.
Alongside the café area, the shop stocks fruit, vegetables and eggs from local suppliers as well as health food products. Run by brother and sister Nick and Alex Beer, it includes Feed the Soul’s own growing range of nut butters, granola, chocolates and fermented products.
Chip and Anita De Greeff set up their business in 2001 and started growing asparagus four years later, beginning with around 200 crowns. Located on an undulating 30-acre site near Bridport, just a mile from the Jurassic Coast, Bothen Hill has become West Dorset’s largest organic vegetable grower. Although they produce a staggering 150 varieties of vegetables, it is asparagus which is arguably the De Greeffs’ signature product.
Being situated so near to the south coast means Bothen Hill can harvest asparagus early in the UK season, usually selling it from mid-April to June. Chip and Anita now dedicate around five acres of their site to asparagus, growing approximately 40,000 crowns.
In a survey carried out by Cornish Mutual last Autumn, thirty-five percent of Dorset respondents to a survey of consumers across the South West said they now buy more locally produced food and drink than they did 12 months ago. And a third (33 per cent) said they were prepared to pay up to 10 per cent more for local produce. Support for local farmers and the taste of the produce were the main reasons people gave for choosing local food.
Cornish Mutual Managing Director Alan Goddard said: “From Cheddar cheese to Portland lamb, Red Ruby Devon beef to Cornish clotted cream, we think the South West makes some of the best food in the world.
“Our survey suggests this is a view shared by people who live across the four counties where we work. It is fantastic to see that so many are choosing homegrown produce to support their local farmers.
“Behind all of our wonderful local produce is a bunch of hardworking people and we are very proud that many of them are our Members. Whether they are growing or rearing it, producing, distributing or selling it, they are united in their passion for helping to create the very best food and drink. That is why we are putting the spotlight on the people behind our produce: the real food heroes.”
Over the coming months, Cornish Mutual will be sharing stories from more of Dorset’s Real Food Heroes.