RURAL MATTERS: Paul Millard of the CLA writes

Dorset Echo: RURAL MATTERS: Paul Millard of the CLA writes RURAL MATTERS: Paul Millard of the CLA writes

The butcher, the baker, the – well, you know the rest – but for most of us, these are largely part of the way things used to be: high streets full of independent shops selling fresh local produce or home produced food.

Local shops contribute a great deal to the economic health of rural areas, but there is no getting away from the fact that they have been threatened, not just from large supermarkets, but by ever-rising costs and the boom in internet shopping.

So it was a refreshing change to hear Environment Minister Owen Paterson tell delegates at the recent Oxford Farming Conference that consumers should buy British fruit and vegetables to benefit the economy and that people should think about where their produce is from.

It picks up on the theme of a CLA campaign we ran for a long time called “Just Ask” which encouraged people to ask and choose locally-produced, seasonal food.

Of course, it’s not just fruit and veg. There is an extravagant wealth of fantastic food grown, caught, reared and processed in Dorset.

Fresh local fish, and shellfish, home-grown meat and game, hand-made pies and sausages, farm fresh vegetables and the spectacular selection of beers and cheeses.

The recent CLA/Smiths Gore Rural Economy Index showed that the rural economy is in recovery as growth and confidence spreads.

A small shift in consumers’ food-buying habits will make a huge difference to economic recovery and will particularly benefit rural areas.

Let’s start exercising a bit of purchasing power. Ask where it comes from and if it isn’t at least English, or better still, Dorset, don’t buy it – and tell them why.

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