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Food glorious food

It was a wonderfully sunny day in Scarborough as the Mayor came to open a Farmers market at the Spa.

This was the first time any market had been held there. In July 2008 the Spa Complex at Scarborough became the venue for the Methodist Conference. Methodists from across the country and special guests from overseas meet every year to consider the major decisions facing the Methodist Church.

I am the Rural Officer for York and Hull, one of the four host districts, and we wanted to give the conference some local flavour. The best way of encouraging people to consider rural matters seemed to be to raise the profile of food at the conference, since we all need to eat. The local fairtrade action group were already working to get fairtrade status for the borough and the conference gave them a good target, and indeed the achievement of fairtrade status was celebrated at the opening session of Conference.

My job was to try and get local food on to the menu and into people’s minds. The chef and catering manager at the Spa Centre were very keen to increase their use of local food and our initiative allowed them to cite a demand for this to their suppliers. We then researched some of the local foods being served, so that food fact cards could be designed. The one for the potato is shown below. Cards were produced for fish,

pork, beef, potatoes, two kinds of cheese and yoghurt. They highlighted issues such as the traceability of meat, the losses faced by pig farmers and the issues facing the fishing industry, as well as the local nature of the food and its great taste! These cards were distributed at lunchtimes and many people seemed interested in what they had to say.

Each conference now produces a prayer diary and so we asked for prayers on the subject of food and land use both for British farmers and those overseas. We felt it important to include farmers worldwide since many of the issues are the same, whether you are a coffee famer in Uganda or a beef farmer in the Dales. It is all a question of justice.

We also put together a district resolution calling on subsequent conferences and district and circuit residential events, to prioritise the use of fairtrade and locally sourced foods at their venues. This was passed unanimously.

However the Farmers Market was the highlight and had taken a great deal of planning. A local group, Wykeham Farmers Market supported by the Dawany Estates agreed to come for an outing to the seaside to promote local food. The council

graciously gave permission to overturn a charter in order for this to happen, and the Mayor of Scarborough came to visit along with the Vice President of Conference Mr David Walton. During the morning there was a steady flow of people: conference representatives, holiday makers and local people all having the chance to taste and take home some of the best of Yorkshire. 

Revd Elizabeth Clark Rural Officer for the York and Hull District of the Methodist Church


agriculture and food

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