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Local champion proves farm shops are best

A NORTHUMBERLAND fresh produce supplier – which has seen a 20% surge in sales since the horsemeat scandal broke – has won a prestigious industry award.

Amid consumer fears over the origins of the meat from supermarkets, Northumberland’s Blagdon Farm Shop has witnessed a sharp rise in sales for its butchery products and ready meals.

With its ready meals made in the shop’s own farm kitchen and meat sourced predominantly from its own farm and other trusted local suppliers, customers have been flocking to the shop to buy quality produce with clear and transparent origins.

And now, for the second year running, the business has been recognised in a national competition which is dubbed ‘the rural Oscars’ by those in industry.

The company has been recognised with the Local Food title at this year’s Countryside Alliance Awards   for its local produce which judges said is “presented with love and flair”.

Shop manager Joanne Celerier said: “To win last year’s award was a real honour but to win it for the second year running is unbelievable. Our customers are the ones who really make us who we are, and it’s them we really have to thank as it is them who nominate us for the award.”

After an in-depth inspection of the business, judge Ann-Marie Trevelyan said: “The Blagdon team have developed relationships with local producers to ensure that the short food chain can benefit as many local people as possible.”

Unlike some of the food industry failings exposed by the horsemeat scandal, Blagdon Farm Shop prides itself on the clarity and standards of its supply chain.

Joanne said: “We independently audit and visit our suppliers and only deal with people we trust or have come to us via a very strong recommendation. We ourselves are independently audited by two separate bodies to prove all that we say is true.

“The lengths that ourselves and other independent shops have to go to to comply with legislation is quite breathtaking to the extent that we have to pay an annual levy simply to be able to tell our customers that our beef comes from our own farm.

“We are very happy to do this but we are shocked by the total disregard for basic legal requirements shown by some food businesses recently.”

And the shop owner, who blames the driving down of costs by supermarkets for the horsemeat scandal, believes the problem can be tackled by larger businesses following in the footsteps of local suppliers like Blagdon Farm.

“They need to reduce the number of people in the supply chain, make greater transparency by all involved mandatory and have clearer labelling as well as insisting upon the testing of all processed meat products within businesses found to have had problems,” she said.

Blagdon Farm works with over 50 local food producers and employs around 20 staff.

The shop specialises in traditional beef and pork from its own farm as well as its own free range poultry, lamb is sourced from a farm near Rothbury. The shop has its own in-house kitchen which makes a big range of ready meals, pies, quiches and cakes using ingredients from Blagdon and other local suppliers. The farm also grows a range of seasonal vegetables.

Visit www.theblagdonfarmshop.co.uk for more information.

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