Food & Drink

Published: October 28, 2021 | Updated: October 29, 2021

Supply problems? Don’t panic because Dorset’s food and drink producers won’t let you down

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Welcome to the second column from our brilliant new monthly contributor Heather Brown.

Heather is the Owner of Dorset Foodie Feed, the county’s top food & drink website.

Dorset Foodie Feed and Dorset Biz News work collaboratively to share food & drink news features across both our platforms.

Our aim is simple: to help support and encourage the food and hospitality sectors by bringing positive news stories to our respective audiences.

You’ll find Heather’s column on here on the last Thursday of every month.

Heather writes…

This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Richards from Dorset Food & Drink.

I’ve got to know Caroline over the last couple of years and our ethos towards local business is aligned and our outlook for the future is the same.

We can’t go back to ‘business as usual’ post pandemic and I think the recent, and ongoing, supply chain issues for our supermarkets only highlights that further.

Despite the constant negative press about empty supermarket shelves, our local businesses are still fully stocked. The more I speak to farmers, producers and local business owners, the more I can see that their shelves are full and they will be throughout the Christmas period!

For many of these businesses, their supply chains are small and this collaborative, local approach to business helps to ensure their survival.

For example, I have already ordered my turkey this year direct from Chilcott Turkeys.

Reared using traditional methods and free range during the day in their lovely pastures near Dorchester.

I will collect my turkey direct from the farmers themselves… and you can too!

You can find both a list of local farms as well as a Directory of over 650 local businesses on Dorset Foodie Feed.

Just click here.

Now, over to Caroline…

How would you describe Dorset Food & Drink to someone who hasn’t heard of you before and what is your role in the organisation?

Dorset Food & Drink (DF&D) is a membership organisation and Community Interest Company, (CIC) which means we are not for profit. But we’re also a jam-packed guide to all things tasty and  local in Dorset and a one stop shop to finding great local food, drink, foodie gifts and experiences.

I am a trumpet blower, critical friend, knowledge bank, mentor, event/festival/market organiser…aka the DF&D Coordinator.

I enjoy helping members, analysing & understanding trends, developing best practice, helping to build brands, and promoting DF&D.

What do you love about Dorset and about the Dorset Food & Drink community?

Where to start? There are so many beautiful aspects of this wonderful county.

I’m a London girl. Stoke Newington born and bred, but my grandmother and aunt moved to Weymouth in 1973, so I spent most of my school holidays in Dorset – working on the beach in the summer with the famous donkeys!

Or wandering in Thornecombe woods, my head full of Hardy, imagining I was Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Little did I know back then that, in 2008, I would be working for the National Trust in West Dorset and helping to manage Hardy Country.

I’m a people person. Always have been. So, for me, it’s people – every time. Whether it’s our DF&D member family, our customers or industry colleagues.

The mix of talent, skills, and entrepreneurial chutzpah just fizzes me. And makes me proud to play a small part in helping to bring the best of Dorset’s food and drink to new audiences and our local communities.

The pandemic has hit food and drink businesses hard, but it has also led to collaborations, new businesses and positive changes to existing businesses. Do you have any particular highlights for you or from some of your members?

Whilst the core vision and objectives of Dorset Food & Drink (DF&D) remain almost unchanged, the pandemic has sharpened our focus and we are shifting towards a more sustainable, mindful approach to our work, our members and consumers.

Without doubt, Covid-19 adversely affected trading opportunities in 2020 but, transversely, has precipitated an increased demand for local produce and supporting local independent producers and makers. So, the opportunity to strengthen and capitalise on the ‘buy local’ message has never  been more relevant or vital.

Our new normal was to look at collaborations to help make the ‘Buy Local/Support Local’ mantra meaningful. So, we looked outside the box for new ways to trade and get our local food & drink offer out to a wider audience.

Hence our pop-up market collaborations were born. We popped up with Dorchester Town Council in the Borough Gardens, The Nothe Fort in Weymouth, Bere Regis Parish Council, The Tank Museum and in the Dorset County Museum.

Alongside, we also attended markets with colleagues from the Dorset Farmers Market and helped reinvigorate the Bridport Farmers & Makers market in Barrack Street.

What has particularly struck us (DF&D), from the start of the pandemic, is the emotional attachment that people have for their markets, of a sort you’re unlikely to find for a supermarket.

They told us things like: “I think the stallholders make it their business not just to talk to you but to remember what you’ve chatted about and to ask how things are. It is like one big family”.

What is your advice to consumers who are looking to support local businesses, especially as we approach Christmas?

With predicted ‘shortages’ now pulling focus in the news as we get nearer to the festive season, there appears to be an undertow of mild panic.

Whilst there are delays at ports, there is still plenty to go round and in my humble opinion… don’t panic!

Your local shops, producers, growers, farmers, makers, brewers, preserve makers, cider makers,wineries, bakers, farm shops, butchers, fishermen and fisherwomen, artisans, and makers, won’t let you down.

There’s a cornucopia of food, drink, and handmade gifts probably a within walking distance of your home. Use your local independent shops and markets. Perfect in the run up to Christmas, where everything will be just that little bit more holly jolly!

And if you can’t get there in person, look them up online. Since the pandemic, many local  businesses will deliver, and have a fantastic range of products and produce. The Dorset Food and Drink shop is stuffed full of festive food and drink ideas.

Do you have any Christmas Food Festivals to pop in the diary? What can people look forward to from Dorset Food & Drink?

Ho ho hold on to your bobble hats because the Athelhampton Christmas Fair is back!

Join us for a weekend of festive fun and food and drink gifts, in the grounds of beautiful Athelhampton House on Saturday and Sunday December 4 and 5. A weekend of festive fun and shopping in the open air. What’s not to like?

Looking ahead, the future of food & drink is one of the biggest challenges on our proverbial ‘plate’ As our relationship with food changes – affecting our health and the world around us in new and uncertain ways – how can we explore these changes, inspire a step change and create a recipe for a happier, healthier future?

It’s a great opportunity to kick-start conversations around our food, our health, our planet (well Dorset for starters), bring new talent into the mix, help to inspire the next generation of Dorset foodies and create a vibrant local food and drink economy.

We are waking up to the fact that we cannot go back to ‘pre-Covid’ ways; instead, using the pandemic as a springboard to accelerate the sustainability of the food, drink and hospitality sector.

From the onset of lock down, we have seen businesses stepping in, stepping up and taking bold  decisive action in the face of an unprecedented crisis, with creative food collaborations to ensure those self-isolating or shielded were able to buy and receive food without leaving the safety and security of their homes.

So, we must build on and maintain our understanding of the interconnectivity of social, economic, and environmental issues, and not go back to dealing with them in ‘silos’.

Work and innovate with the private sector but, more importantly, drive, promote and support local supply chains.

Help reimagine the ‘high street’ and work with local towns to develop high quality street and producers markets- and the positive part they can play in encouraging people and communities to eat well and seasonally, and support the local indie businesses, producers and artisans.

We must keep talking. Lobby, inform, learn, and respond boldly, bravely, and LOUD.

Local for life, not just for lockdown.