Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Your Values - 5 questions to ask in a restaurant

The first in a series looking at how people can eat in a way more aligned with their values. Co-written with Joe Wheatcroft from Source Food Hall.

"When it comes to asking questions in a restaurant, many of us are fearful of being seen as fussy or awkward customers. But by speaking up and asking for information about provenance and the ethics of ingredients, we make these issues important; if you don’t ask questions, the owners and chefs won’t know that these matters concern their customers.

While front of house staff aren’t usually directly involved in sourcing, it may inspire restaurants and cafes to engage all their staff in these issues so they are prepared to respond to questions and trained accordingly. So how do you make sure the food you’re eating when out is aligned with your values? And what are the main issues surrounding sourcing in restaurants?"

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, March 2018, Words

Countryfile Magazine - Hello, Old Bean!

Feature on the rise, fall and rise again of the fava or field bean. Focuses on Hodmedod, a company who are working with British farmers to reintroduce UK grown pulses into our diets. 

"“The world is but a hill of beans,” so begins Ken Albala’s book dedicated to beans. “Nearly every place on earth has its own native species and nearly every culture has depended on beans.” At the mention of a British variety, however, most people think of baked beans – navy beans stewed in thick, sweet, tomato sauce. But despite a can being sold every 17 seconds, centuries before the advent of Heinz’s 57 varieties there was another bean that dominated the British diet. Thanks to one company who are championing its revival, the reign of the fava bean might not yet be over."

Excerpt from Countryfile Magazine, February 2018 (issue 134), words only.

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Your Values - 5 questions to ask your butcher

The first in a series looking at how people can eat in a way more aligned with their values. Co-written with Joe Wheatcroft from Source Food Hall.

"Many of us would like to shop ethically and in line with our values when it comes to buying meat. But while this might sound like a simple thing to do, in practice it can be a complicated web of labels, terminology and increasing confusion. While a certification label will tell you certain things about the meat you are considering buying, if you go to a local butcher rather than your local supermarket, you can dig deeper into the issues.

We’ve come up with some questions that can help you to find the information you need. As consumers, we are often nervous about asking questions in shops, but the more questions we ask, the more butchers and retailers will realise that these issues are important to their customers.  It’s an opportunity for us to help businesses create change from within the system."

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, January 2018, Words and photographs

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Local in Bristol: Working together

The third in a series looking at eating locally in Bristol, focusing on the networks and collaborations that set Bristol apart. 

"With agricultural land prices rocketing over the last five years, one of the main challenges for new producers is gaining access to affordable and secure land. A great example of the kind of creative partnerships that happen in the city can be found at Feed Bristol, an Avon Wildlife Trust site that focuses on demonstrating ecological food production practices. Along with the educational side of the project, the site also hosts several growing operations including Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm Sims Hill Shared Harvest, salad producers Edible Futures, and Upcycled Mushrooms. “There’s a lot of challenges facing new start-ups,” Matt Cracknell, project manager at Feed Bristol explains, pointing out the investment needed to get businesses, that are not significant income generators, off the ground. By allowing new businesses to offer in-kind support to the site rather than paying rent for the land, they reduce key overhead costs. One of their growers, Humphrey Lloyd from Edible Futures, describes the value of the arrangement: “Working here, you benefit from a system of shared infrastructure that helps get around the costs that inhibit many new entrant growers. It’s also a social place to work, so you rarely get the lonely field blues often associated with farming.”"

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, September 2017, Words and photographs

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Local in Bristol: From farm to table

The second in a series looking at local food in Bristol, this time focusing on the different routes to market for producers.

"Restaurants face many challenges in their sourcing; chefs often demand high quality and consistency in their produce and struggle to plan far enough ahead to work with small-scale producers. Why would a restaurant choose to go that extra mile when it comes to local produce, and how can they form direct relationships with local producers? Birch, in Southville, grow around half of their vegetables themselves on a smallholding in Whitchurch, with most of the rest of their produce sourced directly from local farms, including sides of pork from Mary Holbrook at Sleight Farm, that they butcher themselves. Owner and chef Sam Leach describes why sourcing locally is important to them; “We have to think about re-localising the food system. It’s a huge challenge but all you can do is pick your thing and do it well. We try to grow as much as we can in our plot, and then support other people who are doing things we think are good.” "

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, September 2017, Words and photographs. 

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Local In Bristol: What is produced and where?

The first in a series of three articles looking at what local food is produced around the city and highlighting some of the best examples. 

"With falling prices in the dairy industrymore than half the dairy farms in the South West closed between 2002 and 2016. Supporting local farms has never seemed more vital, but how have farms in the area adapted? “For us, cheese making is all about farming – you have to be an entrepreneur to survive!” Hugh Padfield from Park Farm, points out. After the reforms in the 1980s that allowed farmers to retain some of the milk they produced, his father tried his hand at artisan cheese making and now the Bath Soft Cheese Company uses just over half the milk produced on the farm, around 550,000 litres a year, for making cheese. Looking around, there’s lots of other examples of creative dairy businesses in the region: Brown Cow Organics yoghurt, Marshfield Farm and Chews Moos ice cream, and a number of other farm-based cheesemakers such as Trethowan’s Dairy and Godminster."

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, August 2017. Words and Photographs.

Waterfront - Ups and Downs

Looking at the challenges of elevation on canals and the different innovative approaches that have been taken to address this.

"In the mid-18th century, James Brindley changed the world of canal construction forever, armed with a large round of Cheshire cheese. Faced with the challenge of crossing the River Irwell in Lancashire, he knew he had to convince Parliament that his new structure was the way forward.  Apparently, Brindley demonstrated the unconventional idea of carrying one body of water above another by dividing the cheese into two equal halves, to represent the semicircular arches, and then laying a rectangular object over the top to show how the the river would flow below the aqueduct and the canal would flow above (as told in Memoir of James Brindley, John Weale, 1844). Although dismissed by many for his proposed ‘castle in the sky’, Brindley won them around and the Barton Aqueduct (opened 17 July 1761) went on to become the first navigable aqueduct in the country, and remained a pioneering structure until the use of cast iron allowed more ambitious projects to be built. In 1805, Thomas Telford completed the 307-metre Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal, which is today the longest navigable aqueduct in the UK. At 38 metres, it’s also the highest in the world. The construction of the ‘Ponty’ included some unorthodox methods: oxblood was mixed into the mortar (it was believed to strengthen a building) and supposedly the cast iron joints were caulked with flannel dipped in boiling sugar, before being sealed with lead."

Excerpt from Waterfront, August 2017, Words only. 

Walnut Magazine - Eat your Seagreens

A Q&A with Seagreens founder Simon Ranger looking at the importance of seaweed and how his values have shaped his business.

"Where do you see the crossover between food and health in today’s culture?
You still find nutrition supplements in one part of a health store, and foods in another. But the
dividing line is increasingly blurring as many brands, even in the mainstream, are now producing products that are absolutely food, but it's carefully produced, highly nutritious food that is valuable for your body and may come in the form of a ready meal, a carton or a capsule. The health message is being taken seriously, and consumers are not afraid to demand information. I think these are good signs. Know your self, yes - and know your food!"

Excerpt from Walnut Magazine, Issue 02, August 2017. Words only. 

Waterfront - Over and Under

A feature looking at the curious history of different bridges on the canal network across the UK.

"You might notice that the towpath sometimes switches to the opposite side of the canal. This may have originally come down to a landowner who refused to allow the canal path to run through their land, but it was also to ensure that the pull on the horse’s shoulder was balanced. To avoid the time consuming and awkward task of unhitching the horse, roving or turnover bridges were invented. Different regions adopted their own unique approach… 

The Macclesfield Canal is known for its beautiful stone bridges; some of its finest are six turnover bridges, locally known as ‘snake’ bridges. A ramp on one side leads up onto the overpass, which then spirals back under the bridge on the opposite bank, allowing the horse to ascend, cross and descend, without obstructing the tow rope. The smooth, stone form prevented the line from snagging, although if you look closely you may see the stonework worn away in places. This is evidence of decades of ropes running over the stone’s surface."

Excerpt from Waterfront, June 2017, Words only. 

Ernest Journal - Restoration & Roasting

Feature of Bristol coffee micro-roastery, Extract Coffee, focusing on head roaster David Faulkner's love of restoration.

"Restoring the roasters has furnished David with an exceptional knowledge about how they work, so he’s perfectly placed to maintain them. “We roast a hell of a lot of coffee on them,” he says, “and they’re 60 years old already, but they’ll probably still be going in another 100 years if they’re looked after and cared for.”

You can sense his love of these machines – one of the reasons why Extract has opted to stick with them rather than buy a more modern high tech roaster. “There’s still a craft and skill behind it,” David explains. “You have to be there, working the machine and understanding how it works and how coffee roasts. Roasting is about picking the point – a time and a roast where you think the coffee is right. We spend a long time looking for amazing coffee that we love, and then roasting each in a different manner to bring out particular flavours in the profile. It’s just finding the right profile for the right coffee; that’s where the skill is. You’ve got to learn how to do it, to train your palate.” And the Extract approach to this? “We do it as a team; we learn together, we educate each other, and practice is the biggest one.”"

Excerpt from Ernest Journal Issue 6, April 2017. Words and photographs.