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Local food for a living countryside

Local food for a living countryside

When I started volunteering with CPRE Bedfordshire earlier this year, one of the things I was tasked with was sorting through the archives. Some of the most interesting folders were those full of material from our Living Countryside Awards which were launched in 2008. The awards recognise individuals, organisations and projects which enhance Bedfordshire’s environment and rural communities. Many of the stories involved food in some way and included producers, farm shops, community gardens growing fruit and vegetables, orchards concentrating on local and heritage varieties and even, in the most recent round of awards, a vineyard!

After my induction day at head office I went home with a large pile of reading – including some of the From Field to Fork reports which were fascinating. I learned a lot about the connections between local food, the local economy, the local community and the local environment. Looking back at some of our CPRE Mark winners with new appreciation, it’s clear that many of them show how interconnected good local food and benefits to the environment, economy and community are. And what better time to talk about them than British Food Fortnight.

A really good example is Mrs Middleton Ltd which was awarded a CPRE Mark in 2014 in the Sustainable Enterprise category. Mrs Middleton Ltd was created by two sisters and produces high quality cold-pressed rape seed oil. They are committed to farming in a way that enhances biodiversity on the land. Behind the business was the realisation that many visitors to the countryside have little knowledge of how healthy, good quality foodstuffs are produced. The oil bottles show a map reference to indicate in exactly which field the seed was grown and bear a Made in Bedfordshire label.

LCA beds 2014 2

The oil is already being used in top restaurants and is sold in farm shops and delis across the country. It can also be ordered through their website, which offers a wide range of mouthwatering sounding recipes showcasing their products. The enterprise has diversified into flour, which is ground locally at Stotfold Mill.

Back in 2009 Barton Hill Farm, the family farm where the rape seed is grown, was awarded a CPRE Mark in the Landscape Improvement category for their Songs and Plovers project which was designed to attract birds and encourage wildflowers and other wildlife.

Stotfold Mill, where the flour is ground, has also received the CPRE Mark twice! The first was in 2009 in the Landscape Improvement category for work on the Mill Meadows Nature Reserve which improved biodiversity, environmental protection and community access. In 2010 the award was in the Historic Buildings and Landscape category for restoration work to the mill itself, making it once more fully operational and open to visitors, including schools and community groups.


The thing that stood out for me was that around the products produced by Mrs Middleton Ltd are awards which recognise not only food production but biodiverse landscapes and historic buildings. Education also comes through strongly, whether it’s school groups learning about the history of milling or consumers learning about where their food comes from. Local food production turns out to be about much more than the finished product.

The awards will next be run in 2018 so we will soon be on the lookout for more inspiring local food stories from across Bedfordshire.

Find out more

CPRE Bedfordshire website

CPRE Bedfordshire Living Countryside Awards

British Food Fortnight

I learned a lot about the connections between local food, the local economy, the local community and the local environment.

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