In days when every time you turn on the TV or read a newspaper there are more revelations as to the spurious nature of our food, it great to see the people doing it right being justly rewarded.
The Ludlow Food Centre has been voted UK Farm Retailer Of the Year 2013 at this week’s FARMA (The National Farmers’ Retail and Markets’ Association) Awards. The awards were held in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and included the finest farm shops from all over the UK. Presenting the awards was food hero and River Cottage star Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall who has been a member and patron of FARMA for many years.
The town of Ludlow has long been associated with quality food but this is the first time the award has come to Shropshire. Previous winners include the well known Chatsworth Farm Shop on the Duke of Devonshire’s Estate in Derbyshire. The award takes in to account all aspects of the retail experience, the quality of the food and the level of commitment to sourcing locally. The Food Centre’s Managing Director, Edward Berry commented’ “To win this award is the highest honour in our sector. It is testament to the passion and quality of our staff, the food they produce and the local food made by artisans in this region.”
The Food Centre is unique because of its food production. Few other farm shops actually produce their own food, especially not in the quantities that the Food Centre does. Their eight glass fronted production kitchens include a dairy, butchery, jam and pickle kitchen, bakery, coffee roasting room and even an ice-cream parlour. To run these kitchens, the shop and restaurant the Centre employs over 80 local people making it one of the largest employers in the region.
Mr Berry adds, “Our staff make us the business we are. It is because of their talent, commitment and the quality of their food that we have been able to reach such a high standard. We make more than half the food we sell using ingredients from our estate, Shropshire and its surrounding counties.”
The Food Centre opened in 2007 and was widely regarded as a pioneer in the farm shop sector because of its commitment to sourcing locally and making food on the premises. The shop and production kitchens have been growing throughout the recession, exceeding expectation and developing in to an award winning business. It has stayed true to its roots by sourcing more than 80% of its produce from Shropshire and the surrounding counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Powys. In addition the Centre’s beef, lamb and Gloucester Old Spot pork all come from its Oakly Park Estate which surrounds Ludlow to the north. The focus on provenance is something the judges picked out as being an important part of the Food Centre’s success.
Mr Berry says, “Shropshire is the most wonderful county for food. There are so many local producers that are committed to making excellent food and our job has always been to act as a local showcase. We are unique because our customers can see us making their food through the windows in the shop. This means we can involve them in the process and show them where their food comes from.”