Addicted to supermarkets: Is cost the drug?
For some, local produce means the farm shop just around the corner, for others, its a local market but for most, it represents expense and quickly ignored. It is this ignorance that has been steadily introduced to us in the form of nicely packaged, squeaky clean, convenience heavy supermarket products, combined with our never ending quest for “value”.
Its common knowledge that over the past twenty years supermarkets have played a big part in the vanishing of smaller retailers. First with the aggressive power-buying of fruit, veg and meats, then quickly into, well, everything from CD’s, clothes and consumer electronics. The problem is we have just accepted it with out any argument or fight, unless the word “T” is mentioned. Then the local population is at war with the prospect.
Restaurants right here in Knutsford are buying local and not because its cheaper, because of freshness, taste and keenness to build strong supplier relationships. Good chefs have a well seated respect for the skill and physical effort required to grow something from seed or hand rear an animal. In part most chef’s refuse to squander years of culinary skills and creativity on average ingredients when, a hand crafted, locally sourced dish never fails to sell from menus and specials boards.
In January, we reported on the farmers market here in Knutsford with its varied produce and crafted breads, speciality sausages and giant sausage rolls. Since then there has been a noticeable fall off in traders. On the surface, its easy to link the current economic climate as shoppers may have preferred to buy cheaper, but the truth is there are fewer retailers willing to risk taking a stall and selling products.
Picture: CPRE Cheshire food web
The results are that fewer customers attend the market forcing a dip in confidence, more retailers stay away, the cycle continues and customer numbers are reduced. With less choice and available products customers are left with no other alternative. Enter the supermarkets.
We have to accept that for quality fresh produce, some increased costs are a factor but not at the behest of local livelihoods. Last year, the BBC’s Victorian Farm reemphasized our history and the importance of farm produce in the United Kingdom. With the age of steam came the age of transportation and farmers could actually get their produce to markets quickly and cover greater distances giving a rise to a stronger rural economy.
Although now seen as artisan, local producers still turn up to markets every week, and in some cases everyday. In Cheshire alone, there are hundreds of local food producers ranging from Pac Choi growers, butchers to potato chip suppliers. CPRE Cheshire are trying very hard to promote the buying local produce. Their vision for Knutsford is to see a marked increase in the sale of fresh local produce in the town and have people embrace the concept of Buying Local Foods.
The truth is, there needs to be more time and investment leveraged towards educating buyers. Drawing awareness to quality and the positive impact of buying locally sourced food could be one step in the right direction Our indoor market already sells locally sourced vegetables, yet people insist on shopping from the superbuyers for simple items such as carrots.