What can we do to promote produce from Kent farmers?
Farming is worth around £5.4 billion to Kent's economy, and supports over 85,000 jobs directly. Many consumers already buy produce directly from farm shops and farmers markets, but more could be done to promote local produce.
For example, a 'Made in Kent' label could help to sell more of locally produced food and drink to both shoppers and restaurants. More people are eating out these days and would like to know more about the provenance of their food and where it is sourced from. Romney Marsh lamb is a good case where products command a premium.
Consumers are increasingly aware of the value of informative labelling on their food and drink products, what sort of ingredients and additives it contains, and whether they need to avoid these.
More information about the farm or vineyard where the produce comes from is increasingly available, and not just on packaging materials. This can also be found out on-line or by using supermarket or company apps on a smartphone. The source of the meat or fruit and vegetables can be easily tracked from farm to fork, for instance, making sure it comes from an ethical supplier with high animal welfare.
A similar scheme already exists in the brewing industry, where many local pubs predominantly source beers and ciders under the Locale label, stocking these from local micro or small breweries. There are now more than 40 brewers in Kent alone, and hops have seen a revival in the 'Garden of England', with the return of organic Target hops, Bullion hops, and other varieties, increasingly popular in craft beer.
As Lib Dem farm spokesman Tim Farron has said, consumers are increasingly seeking out locally and ethically produced food that they can trust. Supermarkets should stock more and see their sales soar.