Suffolk and Essex farmers celebrate after winning through to finals of regional suppliers awards event
- Credit: Archant
Free range hen farmers and potato farmers-cum- crisp makers are celebrating after winning through to the regional finals of a hotly-contested regional awards.
Havensfield Eggs of Hoxne have been crowned Suffolk County Winners in the East of England Co-op’s annual Producer of the Year Awards, while Fairfields Farm have scooped the Essex title, putting them both in the running to take the top title for 2016.
They will be up against Norfolk County Winner Wendy’s House Cakes.
More than 15,000 votes were cast online and in-store by members and customers of the regional retail chain.
Now in their fourth year, the Producer of the Year Awards celebrate the best of local food and drink across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex, which this year saw Havensfield Eggs go up against Stoke Farm Orchards of Stowmarket.
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First generation farmers, Alaistaire and Fiona Brice provide all East of England Co-op stores with freshly laid eggs from their free range hens.
Fairfields Farm have been supplying the East of England Co-op for more than eight years, with potatoes delivered straight from local fields and bags of home-cooked crisps.
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Fiona said: “We’re delighted to have been voted County Winners for Suffolk and are amazed that so many people took the time to vote for us.
“We have a great team of people working with us here at Havensfield, as well as over 100,000 happy hens laying delicious eggs for us every day of the year. This award is recognition of all their hard work and commitment to make sure Havensfield eggs are produced to the high standard we are all very proud of.
“There are so many fantastic producers in Suffolk working with and helped by the East of England Co-op, to be crowned champions is astonishing, a huge endorsement of our products and brand, and a great honour.”
Robert Strathern of Fairfields Farm said: “Here at Fairfields, news of being awarded the Essex County Winner was met with great excitement. We are really proud and pleased that voters and consumers of our products have supported us. For our whole team across the board, from the farm, pack house, crisp factory and sales team, winning this is really great recognition for all their hard work.”
The county winners were at Wherstead Park yesterday where they met with an expert panel of judges including Terry Hunt, Emma Crowhurst and Polly Robinson. The panel had the unenviable task of choosing the 2016 Producer of the Year, to be announced at the East of England Co-op’s annual Supplier Supper in March.
Kevin Warden, Local Sourcing and Fresh Product Manager, said: “These awards are a wonderful way for our members and customers to tell us which great-tasting local produce they’ve enjoyed most this year, and the incredible number of votes cast this year goes to show just how important local suppliers and produce is to us, our members and customers.
“My congratulations go to our three county winners and I wish them the best of luck for the final round. All of our producers do a fantastic job year round, bringing us great tasting local food and drink and I look forward to celebrating the success of Sourced Locally with them all at our Supplier Supper,” he said.
Since 2007, the retailer has ploughed more than £45.4million back into the regional economy, creating over 400 local jobs and protecting many more. Its Sourced Locally range has grown from a few suppliers to over 100, bringing thousands of local products into stores.