Suffolk farm shops welcome new charter

More than 100 delegates were offered a feast of new ideas as they took part in the region's first farm shop conference yesterday.

The two-day Tastes of Anglia event in Ipswich took farm shop owners from as far afield as Durham and Bedfordshire as well as Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, on a tour of some of the area's big farm shop success stories – Hollow Trees Farm at Semer, Alder Carr Farm at Needham Market, Suffolk Food Hall near Ipswich, Friday Street Farm, near Saxmundham, and Jimmy's Farm near Ipswich.

At the same time, Suffolk became the first county in the UK to set up a Farm Shop Charter. Fifteen of the county's farm shops have already signed up to the scheme, aimed at assuring customers that they are buying quality local produce, which was spearheaded by Suffolk Trading Standards.

Today delegates will gather at Belstead Brook Hotel for a conference day and workshop sessions.

Judy Randon, of Cassava Ltd, which is co-ordinating the event with Tastes of Anglia, with funding from LandSkills East, said the reaction to the tour had been 'brilliant'. It was an 'extremely interesting and valuable day', she said.

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Jeremy Laurie, owner of the Stuston Farm Shop, said he hoped the inclusion of the shop on the county council charter will boost business and ensure that farm shops offer what they say they are selling.

Mr Laurie, who has run the shop and pets corner for the last two years, said: 'If it is promoted correctly and people understand what the charter is, it should hopefully bring people in.

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'There is always a place for a good farm shop and they do not have to be expensive if the fruit, veg and meat is sourced locally. Our caf� is a little dearer than a supermarket, but the quality of the sausages and bacon is fair superior.'

Maisiebrooke Farm at Beccles prides itself on its rare breed meat and poultry. It is owned by David and Jo Lay who breed and rear their own, pure Saddleback Pigs, Wild boar and Cameroon sheep and have a small flock of free range chickens at the farm off Shipmeadow.

They were not at yesterday's launch but Mr Lay welcomed the new initiative and hoped it would spread across the county and boost trade.

He said: 'it is good for our point of view to be involved in the charter as it means people will know where all the produce comes from.

'Customers will know what they going to get with the standard(charter mark), instead of taking people's words for it.'

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