Local food has always been at the heart of CPRE Bedfordshire’s Living Countryside Awards, which were launched in 2008. Many of the projects have 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 a vineyard.
Lots of the projects show how interconnected good local food and benefits to the environment, economy and community are.
A really good example is Mrs Middleton Ltd which was awarded a CPRE Mark in 2014 in the Sustainable Enterprise category. We wrote: Two sisters have created an enterprising business, producing high quality cold-pressed rape seed oil at Barton Hill Farm, farming in a way that enhances biodiversity on the land. The idea came from 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 exactly in which field the seed was grown and bears a Made in Bedfordshire label. The company is set to become a leading sustainable food producer, with the oil already being used in top restaurants and selling at farm shops across England. The enterprise has also diversified into flour, which is ground locally at Stotfold Mill.
Back in 2009 Barton Hill Farm 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 awards will next be run in 2023 so we will soon be on the lookout for more inspiring local food stories.