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Local food heroes
Buying local food not only saves on food-miles. It’s also a way to keep money in your local economy. Most local food producers in our region tend to be small scale family buisnesses, and there is usually a face at the end of the food link.
Chris Hodgson, Piercebridge organic farm.
One of the best things about the shop is getting to meet all these people who dedicate their lives to local artisan food production. These people are the food hero’s of the north east. Take Chris Hodgson at Piercebridge organic farm, we met Chris not soon after we first opened when Rob used to drive to his farm every Friday morning at sunrise to collect eggs and chicken. His eggs are still the best seller in our shop and are named after his son Harry. Harry’s childhood hobby was showing chickens. Time still moves slowly in Piercebridge.
Caroline Bell, Acorn Dairy
Close by to chris’s farm you can find the Tweddle family run Acorn Diary. Caroline and her family have been mainstays of the organic movement in the north east. And her milk was one of the first organic products to be shown to have a higher nutritional values in independent testing. We sell Caroline’s milk, butter and cream. Glass bottles of milk are delivered every Friday. And you can easily reserve them with a phone call on the day.
Elaine, Doddington Dairy
Acorn isn’t the only dairy we buy from. We buy a lot of our deli counter cheese from Elaine at Doddington dairy. Doddington use raw milk from in their cheeses. And they are in our opinion the best tasting cheese in the north east. We always say Doddington cheess is something of a northern secret. If they were a farm in the south of england, we imagine affeciando’s and food writers would be running out of breath, and ink, with which to extol their praises.
They have certainly have quiet a tasty range. And over the years our shop favourite has always been their smoked cuddy’s cave. There was a rumour years back that the president of France said berwicks edge was his favourite cheese in the world. We don’t know how true that was, But Berwick’s flavoursome Gouda like quality makes it more characterful than say the simpler flavours of their Doddington cheddar or Capability Brown.
Zoe, Northumberland Poultry
Also to the north of us lies Longhorsely organic farm. Chicken farming is difficult in the north east .Because most of the land in Northumberland is quite windy and wet. Chickens generally like it warm, with well drained land. And they thrive in the South. But Zoe at Northumberland bucks the trend. She manages to produce really well fed tasty birds, as well as a turkeys and geese at Christmas. She got a customer’s order wrong a couple of years back. So she only went and drove all the way from Longhorsley to Heaton on Christmas eve, just to make sure they had their order for Christmas day.
Jane, Broomhouse Organic Farm
But if chicken is a rarity in the north east, beef and lamb is something our region is well suited to. While we struggle practically at times with arable farming, the grassy Northumbrian hills are ideal for grazing. Broomhouse farm in county Durham takes full advantage of the natural habit . Jane at broomhouse supplies us with Aberdeen Angus beef, Saddleback pork and clover fed lamb on the last Friday of each month. She only sells meat from her own farm. And we have some customers who in return only buy her meat.
Sometimes at a farm shop the only pig you see is on the front lawn or in a photo on the website. That’s never the case with Jane and her husband Mark who rarely sleep in lambing season. Their farm is open to the public and well worth a visit. If you have a special requirement please ask us. As her butchers always seem up for the challenge of meeting the whims and caprices of us townsfolk.
When we first opened the shop we worked for many a year on the committee of Northumbrian Organic producers. One thing that taught us was not to think of the northern market as just like the south. “Don’t think of Northumberland, think of Northumbria”. “It’s all about what’s happening north of the Humber”. Or so one wise old head told Rob.
There are so many producers in the south of England that the broadsheets proudly proclaim that local is anything produced inside 20 miles. From experience in the north, local is anything which can be found from Dumfries in the west, to Berwick in the north and down to York in the south. That’s just the way good food travels up here.
We have some great smallholdings around newcastle in the likes of Neog, Gibside community farm, and Food Nation at cochrance park. But their commercial yields are small, and we simply pick up what we can. For our local veg we often look to Rosemary Wass’s farm in fadmoor.
Rosemary Wass, Fadmoor
The first time we visited Fadmoor it was a revelation. The air, the soil and the rain are as pure as you could hope to come across and while smallholdings are sometimes working to reclaim urban land, Rosemary’s farm is really a gift from the gods, albeit northern ones ,who come late to the years party with the best root vegetables the country have to offer.
Rosemary’s late husband Howard was a national grower of the year. And his legacy lives on at the farm to this day. Howard was a methodist lay preacher. And we used to joke his vegetables were holy as they tasted unlike anything else we had ever come across. Look out for the Newfields labels in the shop. As they are a sure guide that you will be eating veg to make Northumbria proud.
Les, The Honey Store
With our name might be suprised if we didn’t sell local honey, And we have a few varieties. Les from the honey store is our main supplier. And we have honey from his ponteland based apiary’s all year round. Occasionally we have honey comb from Ralph and his Bees Knees Company. It comes from Jesmond Dene. And if ever you see Peter Eggeleston’s honey from chapel park ? Snap it up. We get it very rarely. And it is always a great price
Claire, Scotswood Garden
But treats don’t have to just be sweet. If you are looking for something savoury to relish , we really suggest you try something from Scotswood garden. Claire who runs the kitchen makes a bewitching and ever changing supply of preserves from the surplus at the community allotment in Scotswood. We have been tempted before simply to eat her chutney’s with a spoon on their own. They are so good. Decorum has held us short. But the range and flavour they add in the kitchen is a source of joy to our customers.
From Local to national
We also get juices and cordials from Scotswood as we do from bottom village. Botton village was one of our first local suppliers. We used to collect them from Piercebridge on those Friday morning trips all those years ago. It is definitely on the outer perimeter of our Northumbrian food community. Getting it to the shop required splitting car journeys with Chris Hodgeson and another farmer from Northallerton. It took three of us just to get it back to Newcastle.
Supply in the organic market has become so much more efficient than when we first started. We can now take from all across the country each week. It takes a bit of planning. But nowadays most of our fruit veg is picked to order, whether it comes from Malaga or Sale in Manchester. We are still proud to support the organic movement with foods from across the whole of the UK and even Europe. But it is the local suppliers who are the jewel in our crown, and whose dedication our customers have come to trust over the years.
What’s next ?
The north east food market as a whole continues to grow and expand. And we are always adding new suppliers. Just recently we added ouseburn coffee and love leaf teas. We’ve also opened up a link again to loch arthur creamery to sell their organic cheese. We hope over the years we have managed to pick out some of the very best suppliers who can become an affordable part of your weekly shop.
When we first started our aim was to be a farmers market every day of the week. We hope we have got closer to that over these years. If you like local we hope you will pay us a visit, especially now you maybe know a bit more about the faces behind the products.