Four South West food producers shared their products and passion for their work with over 80 people at a special reception in Brussels last week. Molly hosted the event which was also attended by other MEPs and filmed by BBC West.

The opportunity for producers to showcase their products in Brussels followed a competition launched last autumn to identify some of the region’s favourite food products. The selection was based on how successfully the producers support the local economy, help maintain rural skills, minimise their impact on the environment and improve conditions for wildlife.

The final four chosen were Brinkworth Dairy, a fifth generation cheese maker from North Wiltshire, Quoins Organic Vineyard, a family run vineyard on the edge of the Cotswolds producing organic wines, Stroud Brewery, which brews an exciting range of mainly organic beers and ales and Day’s Cottage which produces ciders, perry´s and fruit juices from their ancient orchards in Gloucestershire.

The evening reception provided an opportunity to sample the ciders, beers, organic wine, juices and cheeses as well as provide a chance to meet the producers. Molly said:

“This event confirmed to me that the South West is home to some of the best foods in the world. The passion these producers have towards their work and their commitment to sustainability and creating local employment opportunities shone through as they each told their story. It is clear such dedication results in high quality products and we were privileged to sample some of the best of the South West.”

Helen Brent-Smith, of Day´s Cottage, who has been restoring ancient orchards and planting new ones, as well as teaching orchard skills, said:

“When you lose an orchard you lose a lot more than trees and fruit. You lose everything environmentally and culturally connected to that orchard. Surveys in our own orchards have shown 9 bat and 29 bird species and over 100 species of moths, not to mention the mixed grassland, lichens and mosses, invertebrates and mammals. And of course orchards are traditionally places for community gatherings and celebrations.  We also offer important opportunities for retaining and developing traditional rural skills associated with managing orchards.”

Greg Pilley, Managing Director of Stroud Brewery said:

“We strive to make our business as sustainable as possible – financially, environmentally and socially. So in brewing our beer we minimise our resource use, use local and organic ingredients and re-cycle our waste as feedstuff for pigs and cows on local small holding. But we also believe an important element of developing long term sustainable communities is by bringing money into our local economy and keeping it there!”

Both Ms Brent-Smith and Mr Pilley were positive about the role that EU grants have played in developing their businesses. Greg Pilley said:

“Stroud Brewery received a significant EU grant to enable its growth. We qualified as we have a commitment to using Cotswold grown malting barley and it helped improve our energy efficiencies.”

Molly concluded:

“Greens believe we need to encourage and celebrate farming that serves the interests of communities and the environment rather than serving the profit motives of large corporations. The South West shows that small really is beautiful and that our local food producers are leading the way towards a more sustainable future for farming communities”.

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