Haslington Food & Farming Festival prize 2013

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undefinedA conversation followed by a brainstorming session between a Women's Institute secretary and a vicar led eventually to a prize-winning event being held in Haslington, near Crewe.

Members of Haslington WI and St Matthew’s Church, together with the local Food for Thought Bakery, collaborated to ensure the success of the food and farming Festival over the weekend of 5/6 October 2013.

The festival won first prize in the Telegraph newspapers’ Bring Home The Harvest competition.  The festival’s debate about the future of food, a tractor and animal display and a farmer’s market of local produce impressed the judges.

The competition was organised by the newspaper group and Love British Food – the charity behind British Food Fortnight.

“It was wonderful to see the public getting excited about British food, just as the Italians and French are proud of their produce,” said Alexia Robinson, founder of Love British Food.

The idea for the Haslington  Food and Farming Festival came about after a chance conversation between the Revd Anne Lawson (Vicar of St Matthew’s and Chaplain to the Cheshire Agricultural Society) and the WI’s Rachel Hughes.

On a fine Saturday, the festival got underway with a farmers’ market on the village green. Local food producers sold bread, cake, meat, eggs, cheese and fruit cordials -  doing brisk business. Local farmers brought dairy and beef calves, sheep and goats to meet the public. A huge modern tractor and a more modest vintage one attracted  interest. Entertainment was provided by Haslington-born Kevin ‘Legs’ Walker of CAT community radio. Cheshire Wildlife Trust raised interest in their work in the countryside, and hungry visitors enjoyed a hog roast over lunchtime.

The WI did a splendid job of decorating St Matthew’s Church, which was open throughout the weekend.  The Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy raised awareness of their work in the locality, and there was a display of 18 varieties of English apples from an orchard in Aston. The entries of a children’s colouring competition, won by five- year-old Anna-Mae were on display. Local author Caroline James sold signed copies of her latest novel.

Saturday evening saw around 70 people enjoying English cheese and wine before engaging in a lively and informed debate about issues surrounding food security under the banner of the national WI initiative The Great Food Debate. 

The event ended on Sunday morning with a traditional harvest festival in St Matthew’s Church when local farmers and food producers sold bread, cakes, jam, eggs and tomatoes.

A collection was taken for Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy. When that was added  to the profits from the weekend £524.41 was raised for this local charity which supports farmers in Cheshire.

The Haslington festival 'highlighted the importance of encouraging children to learn about food growing', said the judges.

Twelve members of the Haslington organising committee were presented with their trophy by Owen Paterson at the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture offices in Westminster.

PIctured above - a goat farming display at the festival

Below -  Rachel Hughes, Secretary to Haslington WI, receives the award from Owen Patterson, Secretary of State for the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Picture by Geoff Pugh

Bottom - the church entrance decorated for the festival