Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Today the farmer and I have been to the supermarket to do our weekly shop. He has to come with me because I still have not got a driving licence since my illness. I must say that he is very patient and uncomplaining and follows me round while I take things off the shelves and put them in the trolley. But today he got very irritated and so did I.

Outside there is a huge poster which says "We support local farmers and local produce."
When I tried to buy tomatoes, out of the twelve different sorts on offer only one was from Cheshire in the UK - the rest were all from Holland. In July? Do you mean to tell me it is impossible to buy British tomatoes in July?

Then we moved on to the meat. British pork? Oh no - plenty from Holland (where pigs are kept on slats) and plenty from Denmark and Germany. Chicken breasts - some were from France.

In fact - once you start reading the labels you become obsessed with it. I feel very strongly about this and, being a farmer's wife, will willingly pay a bit more for British products (although why this should be necessary when the farmers get such a poor return for their money and where the produce has less mileage to come I can't imagine).

When we were on holiday we sat chatting to a fruit farmer from Norfolk UK, who had just retired and sold out. When we remarked that he looked young to retire, he agreed that he was not retiring age. But he could no longer cope with the demands of the supermarket. They required British Cox's Orange Pippins to have ten percent red on them and it all had to be on one side. This meant that he had to cross pollinate with another species in order to fulfil that requirement. Then the packing regulations became so stringent and batches were rejected for the slightest error, so he got out.

Were there any British apples on the fruit counter today? Sorry, only New Zealand, South Africa, France - just good old British Bramleys for cooking. I wonder how long it will be before they begin interfering with those.

We found this very depressing - yes I know we do not have to shop at the supermarket but it is convenient, it is clean, well-set-out, the staff are pleasant. It has everything going for it. But give me our local market on a Friday for my fruit and vegetables in future because getting it from the supermarket has become too depressing.


Dartford Warbler said...

My bugbear is the sale of onions, just ordinary onions, which are grown in China! Ditto, Chinese Garlic when we have a wonderful garlic farm just across the Solent on the Isle of Wight.

It takes some label reading, but in the south it is possible to buy most fruit and vegetables from British suppliers. We are in an area of productive market gardening, so salad crops and soft fruit are available from Hampshire, Berkshire, Sussex and Surrey.

How sad that the Norfolk fruit farmer had such ridiculous restrictions put onto his Cox`s apples.

angryparsnip said...

I agree with your post today.

I read labels. I have a compromised immune system (autoimmune) so chemical sprays and over processed food are not good for me.
I also read the card above the fruits and vegetables that says country of origin.
If it is not grown in America I don't buy it and use something different.
It bothers me to support farmers in Mexico when I know that there are local farmers that need our support.
I am still trying to find a farmers market that I like near where I live.
Since seeing how fish and shrimp are grown in disgusting vats in Indonesia I check to see exactly where my fish comes from too.

I also don't understand how they can ship food from such long distanced and not from the farmers in the state or region.

You are so lucky to live where you do and have wonderful access to local fresh fruit and vegetables.

I remember your post about buying what is in season instead of out of season fruits that look pretty but have no taste.

Great post today.

cheers, parsnip

MorningAJ said...

It's even worse when you work for a living. I'd love to be able to shop around to buy local produce - but by the time I get off work it will all be sold out at our local market. (Well - our LOCAL market only happens once a month.)

We do head off to a farm shop once a onth to stock the freezer with British bred meat but local fruit and veg are almost impossibe to find.

it's me said...

It seems to be happening everywhere--fewer small farms --more corporation farms-less nutritious food--it is the future.

Bovey Belle said...

I get very angry about "foreign" food too. It's like jobs - British folk first, rest form an orderly queue. British produce on our plates in preference to imported. My gut feeling says that the Government thinks the countryside should be for leisure (or building on!) and what a shame there are a few old farmers getting in the way of their masterplan.

And what RUBBISH about apples having to be specially % red all in one place. Who is demanding that? Not Joe Public that's for sure. Give me odd-coloured mis-shapen TASTY fruit and vegetables please. And as for genetically modified, don't get me started on that!

Gerry Snape said...

At this time of year we tend to survive on broad beans, courgettes and the odd early tomato and cucumber. Of course the olive oil is from italy and I'm not sure about the black pepper,I suspect it's Indian, but the salt is Cheshire!!
Oh dear I've been trying to do this since the 70's and I'll go on trying.Good luck everyone!

Heather said...

I couldn't agree with you more Pat. It is ridiculous that we have supermarkets full of fresh produce from halfway round the world which grows perfectly well here. I buy bananas, citrus fruit and one or two other items which can't be grown here, but everything else has to be British including meat and bacon. So much of the imported fruit and veg tastes of the packaging it comes in anyway. We should be producing as much of our food as possible, and paying the producers a fair price for it.

Rachel said...

Once when travelling back from Italy I sat next to an apple buyer on the plane. We chatted during the flight and he told me he bought apples for a leading supermarket and lived abroad all year and followed the apple seasons around the world spending six months in Australia and New Zealand. He bought hardly any apples from UK producers and said that the UK housewife is not interested in where apples come from. I disagreed but he said I was in the minority and price was the most important thing for their customers. And he was such a nice man. Shame.

Elizabeth said...

I think you have really hit a nerve with this one, Weaver.
In the US , needless to say, there is everything you can dream of -- AWFUL processed food included -- but also a LOCAVORE movement.
This is eating LOCAL food.
We are really lucky to have Union Square Green market with walking distance. They are only allowed to sell things they have grown themselves. Therefore no pineapples for instance.
You really can track the year by what is on sale. Needless to say March is pretty slim pickings --nothing new and the apples potatoes etc getting ancient.
Morocco was LOCAVORE heaven since almost everything was grown within ten miles.

I feel very strongly that buying locally made food and products makes for a healthier economy --and should make sense.
Yes, Coxes should be random shaped and crisp and tasty.
I cannot see the necessity of importing dairy products into the UK. Except when I was a child I thought Danish butter was extra wonderful.....

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh I know just what you mean.... We can manage fairly well to source Scottish products in a lot of cases (Edinburgh has a good range of local shops, though the farmers market isn't very veggie friendly), but the supermarkets aren't good at it.

Eryl said...

I always look at labels and buy local, with the exception of things that can't be produced here. We're lucky enough to have a community market garden in town, where I can get lots of vegetables and fruit straight off the plant. It's only open from 9-4 on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, though, so people who work in regular jobs have no access. That said, there is also a local veg box scheme so they can use that. And there's a monthly producers' market where we can get locally grown organic meat.

I really do think that locally produced food tastes better and is healthier because it is fresher. Sadly the supermarkets don't care about that, they only want to make a profit. These days I only go to the supermarket very rarely and mostly for non food items like fairy liquid, and I realise I'm very lucky to be able to use alternatives.

Cloudia said...

Hear Here!

Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral


Titus said...

Yes, hear hear! I don't do so bad for British beef and lamb in Tescos, but fruit and veg are far more difficult.

On the bright side, we had lunch at Penpont Tea Room on Monday, and the cucumber and tomato salad was locally produced - in the village itself!

Tom Stephenson said...

Well done with this post, Weaver. There is a green band-wagon that many rural suppliers are jumping on for the sake of their own sales, and they - British or not - should be ignored in favour of the supermarkets who genuinely DO support British farmers. OK, so us Brits cannot grow pineapples and lemons in commercial quantities, but there is plenty of stuff they can, and I - like you - would rather pay £12 for a free-range chicken then £3 fo a cooked one from Morrisons which has lead a hell of a 'life' for the 2 weeks it has been on this earth.

Marianne said...

I think a lot of the problem is that many people now expect food to be cheap and convenient. it is neither. Real food costs money and takes time. it's up to us consumers to buy local - at farmers' markets (my local one sells local, organic in all but name, meat for much less than the supermarket), at markets and where necessary at selected supermarkets, demanding food from at least the same country if not the same region. and, of course, grow your own! even the busiest city dweller can sprout a few beans or grow mustard and cress. make bread! it's not hard. I can mix a batch in half the time it takes to drive to the supermarket.
read Barbara Kingsolver's 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'. There's hope, but it requires us to be aware of what we're doing.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I sympathise with all your concerns here, Pat. At least here we have a fantastic village butchers selling locally sourced meat - and in a most friendly and knowledgeable way, I might add. Priceless.

If you can, it's always best to go for 'blemished', misshapen, natural-looking fruit and veg. (Not to be found in the supermarkets, I know!) The taste is always so much better, somehow. One's own garden produce is the best!

Dave King said...

It's a depressing tale you tell, right enough. I have to say that this is not a problem we have encountered so far, which leaves me wondering how extensive the problem might be. Are we particularly lucky, or you especially unlucky? Would be interesting to hear of other experiences.

mrsnesbitt said...

I couldn't agree more. We have a local fruit n veg shop and I always buy as local as possible - in brown paper bags - much better than all the plastic packaging from the supermarket - another bug bear!

Lori at Jarvis House said...

Believe it or not, Long Island used to be known for its potatoes and white Ducks. Now the potatoes in the supermarkets come from everywhere but,and the duck farms have been converted into vineyards. Is this progress? There are new farmer's markets here thankfully. The trend to local food is growing as fuel skyrockets.

Mary said...

I'm saddened reading this - we have the same problem here - and it's not only with fruits and vegetables, it's just about everything you pick up to purchase!

What I want to know is, how does the carton of mango sorbet I picked up in North Carolina yesterday, come all the way from Australia without melting? Is it really possible that it never thawed somewhere along its journey, and is that really safe?

Oh my, life has become a crap shoot where our food is concerned!