Northumberland makes a gastronomic assault on Parliament

Old Boathouse chef Martin Charlton and county council leader Peter Jackson at  the Northumberland County Show.
Old Boathouse chef Martin Charlton and county council leader Peter Jackson at the Northumberland County Show.

Food producers from across Northumberland are setting out their stalls in the Houses of Parliament next week to showcase the very best the county has to offer.

A delegation from the county-council-run Produced in Northumberland verification scheme will be taking over the Jubilee Room on Wednesday to bring a flavour of the most northerly English county to the House of Commons.

Jackie Maxwell of Doddington Dairy

Jackie Maxwell of Doddington Dairy

A string of MPs, Ministers and even the Prime Minister have accepted their invitation to pop in and hear their story.

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Peter Jackson, said: “Northumberland is proud to be home to a diverse range of businesses who make, sell or serve food and drink that are produced within our county. This sector is incredibly important to our economy and the impacts and benefits are far reaching. We know that visitors and residents alike want to know they’re buying locally-sourced, ethically-produced, high quality food and drink that is Produced in Northumberland.

“I’m delighted to host this important networking event in Westminster next week to showcase the best produce our county has to offer.”

In recognition of the potential for growth and the ambition of the county’s food and drink producers, the council has developed the Produced in Northumberland scheme. Last week, its own website http://producedinnorthumberland.co.uk was launched.

Hayley Quarmby, Ann Bridges, Lyndsey Spark and Rachel Bruce, the county's team in the Produced in Northumberland and Great Northumberland marquee at the County Show.

Hayley Quarmby, Ann Bridges, Lyndsey Spark and Rachel Bruce, the county's team in the Produced in Northumberland and Great Northumberland marquee at the County Show.

The scheme is based on audit and accreditation which verifies that food and drink is 100 per cent produced in the county. The audits to gain verification are carried out by county council trading standards and environmental health staff as an extra to routine inspections.

This provides a high level of assurance to consumers and purchasers who can be confident of the provenance of goods which are marked Produced in Northumberland.

One of the delegates on the trip, Martin Charlton, director of The Old Boat House Food Group, which has restaurant in Amble and Blyth, said: “I hope that the visit really captures people’s imaginations in regards to really showing the spirit of Northumberland. Our producers are resilient, creative, hardworking and innovative and that reflects in not only the quality of the produce but the overall passion for great food and drink in the region.

“Produced in Northumberland showcases world-class products that are responsibility made. We have a dedication to having low carbon footprints and aim to reduce single use plastic. We’re hugely proud of our landscape and environment so we want to do our best to preserve it for future generations.

Lucy Carroll

Lucy Carroll

“I’d like to see Northumberland become recognised as a true national and international food and tourism destination. At our restaurants we’re working tirelessly to go the extra mile for our customers by providing great service, educating them about sustainability and utilising as much local produce as possible.”

Neill Maxwell, of Doddington Dairy, Wooler, said: “ I think the trip is great for Northumberland as it raises the awareness of our county and it’s great produce in the corridors of power. Northumberland is geographically peripheral and caught between a resurgent Scotland with politicians that are easily heard and to the south there is Yorkshire, which again has a substantial political profile. with this in mind it is more difficult for Northumberland to be noticed.”

Jackie Maxwell added: “We’re looking forward to bringing the best of Northumberland to the capital and the people of power! With all the changes that are happening at the moment, particularly regarding Brexit, it’s an opportunity to speak to them directly and let them know some of the challenges that face our businesses up here in rural Northumberland, particularly for us as a diversified farm business.”

Lucy Carroll, of Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, Cornhill-on-Tweed, said: “The Produced In Northumberland’s attendance at Westminster is extremely important, because we need to communicate the importance and diversity of Agriculture, the food produced in Northumberland, and the significance of tourism, in a county that is the least populated county in England and heavily reliant on agriculture.

“Collectively, we need to strongly voice our concerns, and recognise the importance of post Brexit support, to make sure there is continued support for agriculture and food production, which is going to be crucial in maintaining and developing our wonderful supply of diverse foods, and in turn hold our rural communities together in Northumberland.”

Catrina Grieves, of Kitty’s Ginger Wine, Blyth, said: “It’s obviously an opportunity to showcase our products to not just Westminster but a much wider and broader audience that we would not normally have access to. This, of course, would translate into greater sales and increased growth for our businesses, which is one of the primary criteria for PIN (Produced in Northumberland).”

Joe Evans, of Marlish Water, near Morpeth, said: “The Parliament trip will allow us to showcase our brand and story to an audience of decision-makers and influencers in the capital. As a business, we have aspiration to grow our brand in London and the South East. All of our products are handmade and bottled at source using spring water drawn from the Northumbrian hills and we feel this purity and clarity will be a unique offering for the London market. We thank the PIN scheme for the opportunity.”

Keith Stephenson, of Lindisfarne Ltd, producers of Lindisfarne Mead: “Opportunities to showcase our local produce in the heart of the UK’s democracy can only bring benefits and are few and far between. The venture south will reinforce the strength in depth that we have in the local region. It will help remind every one that this is what we can do and make them aware that we are here.

Only last September, Lindsifarne was included in the 2017/18 Parliamentary Review as a showcase example leading northern business, so to reinforce this with a physical presence along with other complimentary local suppliers reinforces the message ‘we are here’.

“The business opportunities must come from being seen, and hopefully those attending the event will seek ways to connect their own constituencies with us.”

Coun Jackson addedd: “Our producers have the benefits of association with an official trademark and being able to show the distinctive logo on labels, menus, websites and social media. Our economy benefits from business growth and confident new start-ups, while our residents benefit from routes into employment, training and access to better services and products.”

Among the delegation making the gastronomic assault on Parliament will also be Mark Turnbull, from Turnbull’s of Alnwick Butchers; Stephen Laidlow, of The Northumbrian Bakehouse, Kirkharle.