IT'S THE WEEKEND: Food is big business for Monmouthshire
10:32am Saturday 21st September 2013 in News
MONMOUTHSHIRE - the land Michelin-starred restaurants, locally sourced lamb and handmade cheese.
The region's culinary reputation continues to rise, boosted by popular food festivals such as the Abergavenny food festival this weekend, all of these products are readily available from local suppliers.
According to a model used by Monmouthshire council, the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Model, STEAM; food & drink was worth £26.82million to Monmouthshire in 2012 and supported 552 full time equivalent jobs.
For Huw Beavan, 49, of Monmouthshire, his business the Huw Beavan Butchers, in Abergavenny, has seen a rise in interest in locally sourced food since he opened in 2009, with more and more people across Monmouthshire becoming aware of where their food comes from.
The traditional family butchers, recently featured on a BBC programme called Lambing Live, uses meat presented from their own farms in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons to give locally sourced meat directly to customers in Abergavenny.
Mr Beavan said: “At the moment all the celebrity chefs are looking more towards where their food comes from.
“People are prepared to pay that bit extra for their food if they know where it comes from.
“Monmouthshire is terrific for food, and most of what we sell comes from our own farm and the local abattoir.
“I have run the business for four years and where our food comes from has become a lot more important to people.”
Chef Stephen Terry who runs the pub The Hardwick in Abergavenny, agrees, and has been serving all locally sourced food to his customers for the past eight years.
Mr Terry, 46 of Monmouthshire, said: “Food is what you need to live but the importance of it is subjective.
“Some people just eat to live and don’t care about the quality of the food they eat and settle for convenience food.
“Whereas there are people who love to eat food because they like to know that they are eating food that comes locally.
“These are the people who don’t mind paying a little bit more for it.”
For Mr Terry great Monmouthshire producers include Ancre Hill Vineyard which has “amazing” wines.
“I serve all locally sourced food as I think it is important to keep things local in Monmouthshire and it is also good for the economy,” he added.
“You are what you eat and if you are prepared to pay that little bit more you can eat better.
“But people look at the bottom line and see that it is going to cost them £8 for a Sunday roast but they won’t pay £15 for a locally sourced one.”
Kate Beavan of Kate’s Country School, which teaches farming skills, also helps to run the families beef and sheep farm, Great Tre-Rhew Farm.
She believes that Monmouthshire’s producers are putting the County on the map with people turning to local suppliers in light of the recent horsemeat scandal.
Mrs Beavan, 45, said: “Monmouthshire is becoming a bit of a food capital due to its brilliant producers.
“We are proud to be part if the food producers in Monmouthshire and we although are in the middle of nowhere we are surrounded by local producers such as Rob and Nicola Merchant who run the vineyard next door.
“I think food is becoming increasingly important to people in light of the recent horse meat saga and I think people feel a lot stronger about the their food comes from.
“Our courses are all about bringing this to the forefront with classes such as pickles and preserves showing you how to use locally sourced food.
“We also bring this in to schools such as King Henry, where we taught year nine pupils the importance of sustainability and staying local.
“In the past farmers have had a tough time dealing with environmental issues but I think it is all about getting the balance right between a growing population and food production.”
The family run farm recently won a RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming award as well as being shortlisted for the Most Promising Start Up Business awards in February last year.
Mrs Beavan believes that part of the appeal for local food in Monmouth is the fact that customers can talk to the producers themselves.
“The thing about using local food is that you can talk directly to the producer about the produce, such as asking them the best cut for a piece of beef.
“Producers enjoy meeting customers as they are very proud of their products.
“So I think it is good that people are becoming more aware of local producers in Monmouthshire.”
Tim Whitehead, 48, head of food service at Abergavenny Fine Food believes that the popularity of the food in Monmouthshire is down to producers having an eye for the latest foodie trends.
Mr Whitehead said: “We make things that people want and our business are all about innovation, trying to make things right from the start.
“Recently we have begun to make Mexican food such as paquitos which was part of the street food trend.
“As a manufacturer our roots are very much in food and we try to source as many ingredients as possible locally, working closely with local farmers such as Gary Yeomans from Llanvetherine farm.
“This ensures that the quality is really good and we get our ingredients from passionate people.
“We used to be goat farmers but now we are cheese makers.
“We get milk from local farms such as Pant Farm in Llanvetherine and we make the cheese by hand in our creamery before selling it both locally and across the big supermarkets such as Tesco, and Marks and Spencer’s.
“We make both goat’s cheese and Y-Fenni cheese, which is the iconic Abergavenny cheese, which is hand waxed and can be found on nearly every Welsh menu.
“Farmers are an integral part of what we do and we can share the process with them.
“Local food is all about incorporating honesty and integrity to make real food.”
Mr Yeomans, 42, of Monmouth produces goats' milk. He said: “ The food festival is a good thing because they not only does it bring a lot of people to the area of Abergavenny, but it also highlights different producers in Monmouthshire and the fact that all their food is fresh and healthy.
“We don’t directly sell the milk we produce but we sell it to Abergavenny Fine Foods who will have a stall at this weekends Abergavenny Food Festival and we will be there to tell the public how the milk is produced just down the road from them.
“Some people buy their shopping in supermarkets but it is good if the local shops and restaurants in Monmouthshire sell local food.”
Odette Phillips, 31, of Abergavenny, has run the shop For The Love Of Cake for the past nine years.
Mrs Phillips said:” When we first opened the shop n nine years ago there weren’t a lot of tea shops but now a lot of people seem to be opening one.
“Cake seems to be becoming very popular.
“Food is becoming a very popular thing in Monmouthshire and many people don’t mind paying a bit more for a good handmade product rather than go to the supermarket.
“I feel very strongly about a supermarket opening in the town because in feel that it will take away from the smaller producers.
“Everyone loves good food and a lot of people seem to be going on about food history in Monmouthshire which is really good.
“I do try to support other local producers by selling Welsh products such as Welsh drink Radnor and Clam's Cakes as well as my own, because I think it is important to support other small businesses in the area and keep the smaller shops going.”
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