SOMERSET is home to some of the finest and most innovative food producers in the country. From traditional farmhouse Cheddar to milk-based vodka, the county has so much to offer. Some of these outstanding products will be showcased at this year’s Somerset Food Trail Festival, from 15th to 24th July.
The food trail is an “open farm” and farm-to-fork event that puts the spotlight on the diversity and quality of some of the smaller-scale, nature-friendly farmers and artisan producers.
From biodynamic vineyards to community-funded food forests, small batch, organic cheesemaking to rare breed pigs, apple orchards and cider-making to aquaponics and buffalo mozzarella, the 10-day event offers a wealth of foodie experiences – and some cultural ones as well.
Live performance and art will complement talks, tastings and tours in multiple destinations across the county. The festival offers rare, behind-the-scenes access to farms, landscapes, people and places.
The food trail organising committee chairman Stewart Crocker says the event aims to give visitors a better understanding of where food comes from and the benefits of supporting more regenerative and climate-friendly approaches to farming.
He says: “There’s a growing interest in healthier, more environmentally-friendly food. Buying local, sustainably-grown food supports the producers, the local economy and the environment. It’s good for our health, good for the soil and the climate – and food that hasn’t travelled hundreds of miles just tastes a whole lot better!
“Food and farming have been a vital part of the life of Somerset for generations. Yet our food and farming system is under pressure as never before and diet-related health problems, such as type two diabetes and obesity, are on the rise.
“The government’s own National Food Strategy• says our food system has become an ecological disaster. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with just 53 per cent of our biodiversity left. The great news is that we can all help bring about a shift to more nature-friendly farming through our everyday food choices.”
The food trail had a soft launch in 2018 with more than 30 eateries, producers and farmers taking part, but plans for a trail in 2020 and 2021 had to be cancelled due to Covid. This year, with a revamped website and an interactive map, the trail is expected to feature more than 140 venues. Funding to support the project has come from Mendip District Council and a number of town councils.
Among those taking part will be Rob and Lizzie Walrond, who run Pitney Farm Shop at their organic Glebe Farm at Pitney, and took part in the first food trail. Rob says: “One of the ways we can make the biggest difference to our health and the environment is to value food more highly… and learn about it. The food trail is a great way for people to understand more about how our food is produced – and to learn about the growing movement of farming in harmony with nature.”
• The National Food Strategy is an independent report, led by Henry Dimbleby, which looked at the entire food chain, from field to fork. In July 2021, it reported that “the manufacture, production and distribution of food has become an ecological disaster. Globally (and domestically), it is the single largest contributor to the destruction of habitats, biodiversity and major abiotic systems (water, nitrogen and carbon).”
Pictured: Rob and Lizzie Walrond at Pitney Farm Shop.