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Why Local Food Matters

Promoting local food production from field to fork.

The Funders View

Some Young Farmers groups have struggled for new members in recent times, but the Worth Valley group have doubled their numbers by their proactive and passionate approach of linking young people from outside the agricultural community back into farming, encouraging an understanding of the field to fork process. The Leader programme across Europe is all about encouraging and supporting local groups such as this, local action of this nature and bringing rural issues to the forefront of young people’s thinking. It was a great pleasure to support this project and to learn from the energy and enthusiasm of this group.  

Where is the Project?

The Worth Valley Young Farmers Club, meet regularly in Haworth but have members drawn from a huge surrounding area, from rural Craven in North Yorkshire to urban Bradford in West Yorkshire.

The Why Local Food Matters message has been taken to various food and farming events in and around the area. The promotional event at the Bronte Vintage Gathering in May 2010 in particular proved to be a great success and was picked up by the local ITV news programme Calendar. This feature in turn lead on to an inclusion in the ITV programme Fixers, aimed at youngsters between 16 and 24.

As part of this programme, some of the older members put together a series of animated films, from Field to Fork, which have been circulated in the form of a DVD to all primary schools throughout the South Pennines and beyond.

The Project Story

The Worth Valley Young Farmers describe themselves as a modern organisation with old fashioned values, an accurate description. The club itself has been going for 67 years but the members are exclusively youngsters, the only criteria for membership is youth – members must be aged between 10 and 26 - you definitely don’t have to be a farmer to join. In fact one of the key aims of the YFC is to encourage youngsters from outside the farming community to take an interest and an active role in agriculture. The majority of the 60 or so current members are not from farming families.

‘Why Local Food Matters’ is the title for a whole series of public consciousness raising events undertaken by the Worth Valley YFC in response to increasing  concerns about the disconnect between rural producers of food and urban consumers of food. The project developed when Worth Valley YFC held an open farm day for Bradford’s schools. “We were shocked to see the surprised looks on many of the children’s faces when we showed them that the egg came out of the hen, that the sausages on their supermarket shelves had once been a pig, and when the farmer squeezed the cows teat and milk came out I think they thought he was a magician!” says Jack Holmes.

Jack Holmes is 18 years old and like many youngsters he is an expert at multi-tasking, he is stock and pig man on his parent’s farm whilst still a student at the local college. He is also a trainee butcher - a useful skill for the future and he works at Marsh Top Farm Shop, (belonging to his parents), stocking and selling farm-produced food over the counter. His passion is farming, “I think it is really important that young people understand where their food comes from, some people don’t think further than the supermarket shelves.” “People need to know what we farmers do and why we do it, our future depends on it!” 

What spare time he has is directed towards the Worth Valley YFC, “Whenever we set up our, ‘Why Local Food Matters’ stall, everyone wants to come and have a chat, children in particular love to see and stroke the animals, the butchery and cookery demonstrations are always packed.”

Andrew Wood, Worth Valley YFC Club Leader said, “There is so much confusion about food, we wanted to demonstrate just how easy it is to use locally produced food.” “We wanted to inspire people too, so we choose modern and exciting meals, my personal favourite was the Moroccan inspired lamb, adventurous cooking, local ingredients, delicious.”

In preparation for the, ‘Why Local Food Matters’ events, YFC members visited Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food, in Bradford.  There they developed recipes using locally produced ingredients and spent time perfecting the dishes.  Then at public cookery demonstrations during the course of the summer of 2010 they, ‘passed on’ their knowledge everyone who was interested.

 The, ‘Pass it on’ events proved so successful there was a second visit to Jamie’s Ministry of Food and new recipes were demonstrated at events during the summer of 2011.

‘Why Local Food Matters’ was a huge public relations success, it led first to a spot on local ITV news programme, Calendar, this in turn led to them being invited to contribute the key note speech at a Climate Change Conference and this in turn led to an involvement with Fixers an ITV programme aimed at 16 to 24 year olds - the message is continuing to spread. 

A series of short animated films, ‘Field to Fork’ were the culmination of months of hard work by a number of Worth Valley YFC members, put onto DVD and distributed to all local primary schools they tell the story of food from farm to plate. It was “World Premiered” in the Airedale Shopping Centre in Keighley before the Christmas lights switch on before large audiences of shoppers. The DVD is written and voiced by members of the Club, animated by Chloe Rodham, a talented young animator.  The finished DVD was first put onto the ITV Fixers website and it was one of their top projects with over 4,000 views.

Sophie Ogden who voices the animated Sophie in the film said, “The film has a feel-good factor, it is a fun script, but also, it is important for everyone to see how the local economy works, if people are able to see where their food comes from and where their money goes, they might consider more than just price when choosing where to shop and what to buy.”