Cumbrian farmer John Geldard received the coveted Farmer
of the Year Award at last night’s Farmers’ Weekly Awards, attended
by HRH Countess of Wessex, for his pioneering creation of Plumgarths
The forward-thinking farmer was commended for the outstanding
contribution he has made to the industry by reconnecting farmers
with end consumers, creating a perfect working model for the future
of British farming.
Plumgarths Hub, a project that brings together local farmer’s
produce, providing a sustainable route to market, was established
in 2001. John Geldard had begun to notice that consumers’ interest
in the origins of their food was growing, along with a nationwide
desire to reduce food miles. He recognised that
the farming community held the answer but that they needed to be
more proactive in marketing themselves to the British public, directly
providing them with locally sourced food.
The Hub’s main aim was to reconnect the food chain by
linking small specialist food producers and provide them with a
route to a major supermarket. In 2002 Asda became
the first supermarket to stock the Hub’s produce, a venture
that proved so popular it was adopted by the store in 14 other
regions. Before long, other supermarket chains followed suit
launching regional brand initiatives that featured
direct farmer supply.
By providing a sustainable route to market for
local produce, Plumgarths Hub benefits local farmers and satisfies
the consumers’ demands for high quality local products. The
Hub also helps to reduce food miles, an issue
which was pushed to the top of the Government’s agenda last
week following reports that almost a third more food was flown
into Britain last year than it was in 2005.
Sheila Dillon, Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme,
said, “John is changing food distribution and production
in the UK. He's worked out a way to put farmers back in the
driving seat of the food system, showing them how to deal with
supermarkets as equals. He's an inspiration."
By making consumers more aware of the array of local produce that
is available to them and in turn reducing food miles, ventures
like Plumgarths Hub hold the key to creating a sustainable
and environmentally friendly future for the British
farming and food industries.
It was John Geldard’s forward thinking and insight in this
area that first brought him to the attention of the Farmers Weekly
judges. They commended his clear vision, knowledge of the
market and consumer behaviour, as well as his awareness of the
need to network within the farming industry and in turn market
the industry to consumers.
John’s vision has benefited both his business and those of
the other farmers and producers involved in the Hub, all of who share
the added value that their branding generates. With the demand for
locally produced, fully-traceable food increasing and the need to
reduce food miles a necessity, projects like Plumgarths Hub are leading
the way in the race to create a fully sustainable rural economy.
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