Aldeburgh/Snape: ‘Field to fork’-inspired events celebrate county’s food and drink businesses
Food campaigners aim to keep Suffolk at the forefront of a revolution in British attitudes to foods as they unveil a series of ‘field to fork’ events as part of Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival Fringe.
The ninth Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival takes place over the weekend of September 27 and 28 and is followed by The Festival Fringe fortnight, which runs until October 12.
The fringe, which is supported by Debenham cider makers Aspall and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), is designed to help the local economy and give local producers the chance to promote their diverse range of products, while promoting understanding of the wider importance of local, seasonal food and drink in the context of sustainable farming, fishing and food production.
A host of local producers, food businesses, pubs and restaurants from throughout Suffolk have signed up to be involved this year. They will be holding more than 70 events, including farm and producer tours, workshops and special dinners.
One of the festival organisers, food entrepreneur William Kendall, who sold ethical chocolate company Green & Black’s to Cadbury in 2005 and runs an organic farm - Maple Farm at Kelsale, near Saxmundham - will be among those hosting fringe events.
“The number of people who join our annual Maple Farm walk as part of the fringe grows and grows. There is clearly an increasing desire to understand how food is produced first-hand,” he said.
“Last year, dozens came with notebooks and pens and dozens of penetrating questions about organic production. There seems to be a revolution taking place in British attitudes to food and our part of Suffolk is where people think they can find the answers. It’s also a nice opportunity just to walk in beautiful farmland.”
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Local food campaigner Caroline Cranbrook, who is also involved in organising the event, said the festival was different from others for a range of reasons, including that it is not run by a professional events organisation.
The fringe was created to help ensure there was a positive knock-on effect for local shops and businesses, she explained, and share in the economic benefit of the festival.
Seeing food and drink being grown and produced “for real” was important in deepening the public’s understanding of it, she said. This area produced “some of the best food in England”, she added.
“The festival’s fringe events help create a better understanding of the countryside, providing an introduction to the people, animals and landscape which produce our wonderful food and drink,” she said.
“They are also important economically, not only to the businesses involved but also to East Suffolk as a whole. Professional surveys have shown that the festival and its fringe together bring an annual economic benefit of about £1.2million to the area. The extraordinary variety of events taking place on our farms and smallholdings and in our villages and market and seaside towns provide very real proof of the amazing food revolution that has taken place. Suffolk truly deserves its reputation as a food destination.”
Peter Osborne, general manager of the White Lion & Brudenell Hotels in Aldeburgh called on more food businesses to get involved in the fringe in order to promote what the county has to offer.
“Each year we embrace the Food & Drink Festival and its fringe events more and more. The value of getting involved is incomparable to any other festival given the industry we work in. I would recommend local suppliers and restaurants get involved and shout about the success of Suffolk’s produce and its people,” he said.
High House Fruit Farm, based at Sudbourne, near Woodbridge, has supported the fringe for a number of years and will host a pre-festival orchard walk with a picnic lunch from local chef Peter Harrison on September 18.
Suvi McCreadie from High House said: “We really enjoy hosting this fringe event. It’s always been a very convivial event and a great opportunity to connect with our customers, share our fruit growing experiences and together enjoy a delicious lunch.”
Following the launch of its own chocolate last year, Pump Street Bakery at Orford is inviting visitors to its chocolate room, where its chocolatiers will demonstrate whole process from bean to bar.
Also new for 2014, Hillfarm Oils, of Heveningham, near Halesworth, which is run by farmer Sam Fairs, will offer a guided tour of its press to show how rapeseed grown on the farm is made into cold-pressed rapeseed oil and bottled on site. The tour is followed by a cookery workshop, tastings and refreshments.
The fringe has supported the launch of several small festivals including The Woodbridge Shuck Festival, a three day celebration of Shellfish from October 3 to 5 incorporating special menus and safari suppers throughout the town, and a waterside fun day on the final day with tasting stalls and cookery demos, music and a bar.
A printed programme of events will be available from early August at different locations. All fringe events must be booked with event organisers and not through the festival.
Tickets for the festival itself go on sale via the website from this month. Entry costs £8 for a day ticket and £14 for a weekend ticket. Children 12 and under go free. Parking is free. Festival opening times are 9.30am – 5pm on Saturday, September 27, and 9.30am to 4pm on Sunday, September 28.
An interactive map of all of the fringe events and information about booking places directly with the organisers is available on the festival’s new website, www.aldeburghfood anddrink.co.uk