Hampshire Food Industry: locally grown and farmed produce
Business report on a significant ‘cottage industry’ in the New Forest
This report was researched and written by J King, London based business journalist and it ties in as well with the initiatives going on all around us to reduce our carbon footprint and ultimately to save our planet so we've picked this week to publish it.
Lymington Seafood Festival - an immersive "local" experience!
Also timely, the Lymington Seafood Festival coming up next month 10-11 August is a fabulous opportunity to sample lots of local produce in a brilliant atmosphere (photo credit and thanks for this image to Harry Smith Photography)
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Locally produced farm fare
‘One of the key industries for Hampshire and the New Forest area is fresh, locally produced farm fare. This is such an important sector that it is self-regulated by not one but two local bodies, Hampshire Fare and the New Forest Marque which awards its standard to those companies meeting the level of quality one would expect from smaller producers.
Unlike large industrial farms which use pesticides and artificial preservatives before long-haul journeys, an ‘organic’ product is typical from small farms and this ‘cottage industry’ comprises a major part of the Hampshire economy.
Retail, hospitality and smaller production companies can also apply for membership of these trade bodies, thereby gaining access to a much wider catchment area for their sale conversion ‘funnel’. By listing their offerings on a site with a high level of authority on regional goods and services, they also benefit from local advertising support.
Hampshire Fare and the New Forest Marque are the resident authorities on what to do and where to buy in the region and provide .
A family affair - and the benefits
Compliance costs can be expensive for SMEs, and it is fortunate that regulatory standards in this instance come with free advertising. While the Food Standards Agency has nationwide oversight of hygiene and product integrity, in Hampshire the industry standards are rather more exacting because there is this self-contained element.
To earn the New Forest marque, livestock need to be 50% raised in the scheme area and processed foods must contain 25% locally sourced products. The standard for goods cultivated under the scheme is still higher, and they must be 75% cultivated in the scheme area. As well as getting a fresher, naturally ‘organic’ deal, those who buy into the scheme are lending financial support to local industry, which feeds back into the local economy.
There are numerous locally based catering companies which appreciate the quality of locally grown and produced fare, support local suppliers and source their ingredients and other supplies locally - and have also sought the coveted New Forest Marque.
Claire Lee, operations manager at the New Forest Marque, stresses that "the Marque is above all a mark of provenance and location; by its nature an artisan produced or handcrafted product is often a quality product as well. The role of the New Forest Marque is to unite local artisans and to build a strong network between primary and secondary producers. Local producers working together is better for the local economy.”
Local taste which travels too – Hampshire fare “afield”
Produce reared and cultivated in Hampshire is in such demand that it had its own showcase in London the weekend of the 7th and 8th June, where it held an exhibit in the landmark venue of Borough Market. Unique artisan goods had been cherry-picked to appeal to discriminating London tastes, for example Winchester distillery delivered its Twisted Nose gin, made with Hampshire watercress. Smoked fish, wasabi and independently brewed beer and cider are the order of the day, and the full roster of exhibitors included: Beau Farm, Chalk Stream Foods, Raimes Sparkling Wine, The Watercress Company, Lyburn, Stag and Bull Biltong, the Wasabi Company, Meon Valley Cider and Wild Island. Chalk Stream is particularly in vogue at the moment, and its products are on the menus at Wimbledon, Ascot and The Chelsea Flower Show 2019.
All of these companies are certified members of industry body Hampshire Fare. Its PR executive Nancy Judge explained that “Borough Market led the selection process of the traders able to attend the Hampshire Food Fare. The idea was to reflect the heritage and uniqueness of Hampshire’s offering.”
Sales, according to Hampshire Fare PR exec Judge, were strong and many visitors took website details to order in the future; and she added that “lots of people were eager to find out how to travel to Hampshire for various events.”
Hampshire Fare said in a statement of the event: “Hampshire has definitely been the buzz word here at Borough Market. It has been brilliant to talk to food lovers from all
over the world about the quality of Hampshire produce.”
Unique and very special locally grown – and an experience too
Experiences are packaged and sold as determinedly as actual produce. At the rural idyll that is Goodall’s Farm families can come and pick their own strawberries. Another experiential company markets ‘rustic picnics’ which are delivered on site and on demand.
You can even have an individualised experience by buying locally. Those are all the rage in sales and marketing. The spicy herb Wasabi is unique to Hampshire as it is the only place in the UK where Wasabi is grown.
Meanwhile products like honey which are unique to the local area are actively better for you, because they give you localised immunity as well as protecting against hay fever; your immune system’s aggressively disproportionate reaction to local pollen. Like with homeopathic remedies, the pollen is assimilated in small doses – by eating locally produced honey - to increase your tolerance for it.
Based in Lymington, Busy Bees, a company which proudly holds the New Forest Marque for quality, is a source of a variety of honey-based and beeswax products including cosmetics such as lip balm, natural soap and skin cream as well as household products like scented candles and furniture polish. Another stockist, Burton Bees, which runs 200 hives across Sussex Hampshire and Surrey, is careful to ensure customers are guaranteed it is locally sourced, claiming,
“All our honey is harvested individually from each apiary and sold with the location on the labelling enabling our customers to buy a honey that really is local to them.” They are also careful to ensure sustainability, stating, “We will only harvest honey which is surplus to the bees' requirements.”