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Eating local food in Somerset

Suzanne in the Somerset countryside Suzanne in the Somerset countryside Suzanne Wynn

Food writer and CPRE member Suzanne Wynn tells of her gradual discovery of local food

I live on the Mendip hills in north Somerset. You can’t grow much above the 600ft level at which I live, but grazing is important for managing the land so I feel no guilt at eating this naturally reared meat. Lower down the valley is perfect for dairy farming. Unpasteurised milk and cream come from a small farm with only a dozen Jersey cows, and my favourite yogurt comes from a herd of Guernsey cows 20 miles away.

The whole of Somerset is of course known for its orchards, especially for cider production. Many orchards have been lost but those remaining are highly appreciated and an important source of fruit. I drink local apple juice all year and manage to be eating some form of local orchard fruit for at least half the time. Together with a small group of people we have purchased a press to help ensure that orchard fruit does not go to waste.

I haven’t ever analysed exactly what proportion of my food comes from within 30 miles of where I live, but I know it is well in excess of 30%. Quality, both in terms of taste and farming practice is of paramount importance to me, so if this requires me to widen the radius to include Dorset and perhaps the rest of the West Country, I do so, but that then covers around 70% of what I eat with the rest of the UK bringing me up to 80%. This didn’t happen overnight. I have always eaten seasonally, but it was meat that first determined me to shop away from supermarkets and the rest has gradually fallen into place.

I know I eat better quality food as a result and the pleasure is enhanced by knowing who has produced it and how. However, my original motivation came from my dissatisfaction with the food in supermarkets. It didn’t taste as I remembered it could, and should, taste and as a keen cook I knew that you can’t create a great meal from inferior ingredients. I started to grow my own vegetables but thank goodness my efforts are now supplemented by an increasing number of local growers. On the sunny southern side of Mendip there are small market gardens - it used to be famed for strawberries, but asparagus is the best produce here now.

If I have a word of caution for those just embarking on this wonderful journey it is that you will need to become a more questioning and discerning shopper than you are encouraged to be in a supermarket. Farmers’ markets are wonderful places for talking to producers and the more you do it the more you – and they, will learn. Great enjoyment is to be had every day as a result of becoming more engaged with your food and its producers.

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Inspired by Suzanne's story? Take our 30:30 challenge and pledge to try sourcing 30% local food from a 30 mile radius.
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Together with a small group of people we have purchased a press to help ensure that orchard fruit does not go to waste

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