Gloucestershire has the climate and soils to produce some of the best food and drink in Britain. Buying local products makes everyone a winner. When local food products are purchased, money often goes directly back to the primary producers, especially if the goods are purchased at a Farmer’s Market.
There are over 700 registered Farmer’s Markets in the UK. The aim of the farmers’ market is to put the consumer in contact with the producer and to provide local, fresh, quality produce. All the products on sale should have been grown, reared, caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked or processed by the stallholder.
Farmers Markets occur across the county on a regular basis:
|Cheltenham||2nd and last Fri of the month||Long Gardens, Promenade|
|Cirencester||2nd and 4th Sat of the month||Market Place|
|Durseley||2nd Sat of the month||Town Hall|
|Gloucester||Every Friday||The Cross and westgate street|
|Stroud||2nd Thur of the month||Market Square|
|Tewkesbury||2nd Thur of the month||Spring Gardens Car park|
|Winchcombe||3rd Sat of the month||Town Centre|
One problem with seasonal food is there can be a glut of certain products at particular times of the year, which is why it is important to have a wide range of recipes covering staple vegetables, otherwise eating the same thing each day may become monotonous. To help you combat any potential monotony, we have a number of recipes to add variety to your diet.
Benefits summary for buying local food:
- Ensures freshness and maximum nutritional value
- Reduces ‘food miles’, packaging and waste.
- Encourages regional identity
- Encourages varieties based on flavour not shelf life
- Re-establishes connections between grower and shopper
- Supports the local economy
- Supports small and specialist producers
- Protects sensitive habitats
Organic versus non-organic
With around 62 million people living in the UK, if we were to grow everything organically, we may find we have a food crisis on our hands, because we would struggle to meet the demands of a hungry nation.
People have to make their own choice on whether or not they wish to buy organic produce or not. Many people claim that organic foods often taste better than chemically assisted produce, but from a nutritional point of view both types are as good as each other.
It is true that supermarkets put the pressure for farms to produce masses of food with textbook appearances, preferring straighter or more regular sizes and appearances, because it makes it is easier for them to pack and transport.
To meet the demand, farmers often use fertilisers,, which are either organic or chemical based.
Organic fertilisers differ from chemical fertilisers in that they feed the plants while building the soil’s structure. Soils with lots of organic material remain loose and airy. As such, they are better able to hold moisture and nutrients, foster growth of soil organisms, including earthworms, and promote healthier root development.
Another advantage of organic fertilisers is that they are made from plant and animal sources or from rock powders. These materials need to be broken down by soil microbes in order for their nutrients to be released and this takes time, which means they work slowly, so providing steady, long-term nutrition to the plants. Also, they are less likely to be washed away by rain.
Unlike organic fertilisers, chemical fertilisers do not add bulk to the soil and their excessive use can lead to considerable levels nitrate and phosphates running off fields and into water courses. This can lead to algal blooms and subsequent de-oxygenation of the living environment for many creatures.
Non-organic farms will also use insecticide and pesticides on crops. These are designed to kill insects and weeds respectively. Unfortunately, some of these chemicals can remain active in the soil for a number of years and the cumulative effect can be harmful to useful pollinators such as bees.
In addition, there is also the possibility that these chemicals are transferred from the foods and into humans, which makes it important that all food is washed thoroughly before consumption. Buying organic food is the best way to ensure fewer chemicals in your food enter your body, as it has to be certified and tested to make sure it is of good quality.
Where possible buy loose products instead of foods that are over packaged and excessively wrapped. It takes materials and energy to make the packaging, as well as to dispose or recycle it, so using less or avoiding it altogether is better for the environment.
Many of pre-packaged foods like salad leaves etc come in sealed plastic bags containing a modified atmosphere designed to reduce the amount of oxygen available within the bag to inhibit bacterial activity.
Inhibiting bacterial activity can dramatically increase the shelf life of food produce, e.g. meat can go from 3 to 21 days, cheese from 7 to 180 days and fresh pasta from 3 to 60 days. This means food is available for longer due to reduced spoilage it, however it encourages long-distance import/export options.
In Europe, we spend around £20 billion per year on bottled water. This means that a phenomenal amount of energy is put into manufacturing and filling bottles, transporting them around the country, as well as exporting them across the globe. Disposal of the empties is also an issue, as many bottles are made of plastic and even though some are recycled, many end up in landfill, where it takes up to 450 years for the plastic degrade.
Finally, please remember to take your own bags to the supermarket and refuse any plastic bags that are offered to you.