Buying local in Warwickshire
PUBLISHED: 11:20 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:02 13 March 2014
Anna Rose discusses the increasingly popular focus on 'buying local', and the potential community-wide benefits
‘Buy local’ has certainly become catchphrase we are all much more exposed to and in view of the economic climate, by buying local, we perhaps feel that we are supporting our local infrastructure, championing the traders in our area and thus boosting the economy close to home.
Local commerce benefits aside, in particular buying/consuming local food has become very much en-vogue in recent years catalysed by many factors including the advent of more local farmers markets, reactions to reported scandals (eg: horse-meat), rising food costs, people’s demands for going back to basics, development of an environment conscience and acknowledging recessional times by growing vegetables in allotments.
Taking the environmental focus into consideration, over the past 20-plus years buzzwords such as ‘green’, ‘sustainability’ ‘carbon footprint’ have all been floating around our vocabulary with remedial action of switching to a more planet-friendly mindset and “doing our bit” beginning to make a difference. Aside from the activity of recycling of our paper and plastic waste, our direction of thought has been nurtured to now think about food, how it’s grown, where it comes from and the impact of its journey from source to plate.
For instance, the convenience of having many fruit and vegetable types available all year round in supermarkets comes with a high environmental price as goods are often flown from the other side of the world to satisfy a 365-day demand for certain items. Carbon emissions from long-haul flights, increased refrigeration and packaging costs all make for a heavy burden on the world’s resources.
In a bid to reverse this trend, leanings towards seasonal, local eating is on the increase. Suggested benefits of adopting this lifestyle have been documented outlining possibilities of attaining better levels of health as a result. For example, food that hasn’t travelled far (and in season) will contain more nutrients, plus there have been recommendations that eating local produce can aid controlling food allergies. Eating food that has been grown in local soil is seen as harmonising/climatising to your surroundings and this may be able to subside allergies as it allows your body to build up resistance to allergy forming elements that may come from your local environment.
On the flip-side to consumer patterns, businesses are now taking a similar stance and recognising that customers are demanding more and expecting more from businesses in terms of their corporate, social responsibility (CSR) policies. By utilising and supporting these businesses, this in turn assists in easing consumers’ social consciences by purchasing from those that mirror their environmental ethos.
One such company whose business model is based on using locally sourced ingredients is Platinum Pancakes, a Birmingham-based outlet that sell savoury and sweet pancakes regularly at local farmers markets, food fairs and streetfood events. Owner Anthony Dillon, a former chef, recognised the importance of using quality ingredients and wanted to use this mantra in his business practice. His search extended into the Warwickshire borders where, meeting local producers, he was able to source local goods with the assurance of quality and a minimum impact upon the environment.
Eggs are a key component of pancakes, with a large quantity required for the volume of pancakes produced for public events. Negotiating with Chadwick Farm between Solihull and Warwick, the majority of the eggs from the farm go to supermarkets - but the ones that are deemed ‘wobbly’, with imperfect shells, are used by Platinum Pancakes. The eggs are still fit for purpose but with the consumer demand for ‘perfect’ produce, these eggs would otherwise be disposed of. This practice reduces food waste as well as food miles. Also, by going directly to the source, the processing and boxing elements are eliminated further reducing food miles.
Paragon organic wheat is used for the flour element of the pancake mix and this is grown near Leamington Spa, and then ground and made to order at Claybrooke Water Mill in Leicestershire. It is organically grown wheat that has got particular properties that lends itself well to the stone grinding process.
Interestingly, the mill boasts a wealth of history ranging from being featured in the Doomsday Book to its connection to Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot; It is rumoured that the flour that made the gunpowder for the gunpowder plot came from Claybrooke as Guy Fawkes’ father was the miller at the time.
Whole milk is used for the pancake batter which is obtained from Grovewood Farm. On the gateway between Warwickshire and Worcestershire in Hopwood, Grovewood remains a traditional farm and dairy. The land is owned by the Bournville Trust and as such, the dairy must be run in a traditional manner. By going direct to the dairy, freshness is guaranteed as the milk given to Platinum Pancakes is just an hour old following expression.
Taking Platinum Pancakes offering as a whole, when purchasing from them at one of the local events they trade at, you are supporting a local business which in turn supports the wider local food producer network. Behind the scenes, business-to-business relationships form over a common goal to remain regionally tight-knit and that satisfies the business-to-consumer demand for an end product which boasts locality from start to finish.
To ensure the tide continues to turn, by supporting local ventures, then perhaps we can go back to a time when we did buy from our neighbours in the local sense and support those around us rather than global conglomerates. Seasonal/sustainable farming, purchasing and eating will ease environmental pressure, strengthen local economy and we may even reap health benefits if we eat the way as nature intended us to.