KEEPING it local is reaping rewards for a Northumberland farm shop as it takes a regional title for the second year running.
Blagdon Farm Shop has been named best in the business for Local Food in the North East Countryside Alliance Awards.
The honours, dubbed the Rural Oscars, aim to celebrate rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage by recognising outstanding small businesses.
Blagdon Shop Manager Joanne Celerier said: “To win last year’s award was a real honour, but to win it for the second year running is unbelievable.
“Our customers are the ones who really make us who we are and it’s them we really have to thank as it is them who nominate us for the award.”
Judge Anne-Marie Trevelyan was impressed with the quality and quantity of local produce available at the shop, as well as its ‘service with a smile’.
She said: “Blagdon represents local produce presented with love and flair. The model is ‘own produce, local produce, then the best of the rest’. This encapsulates what our attitude to food needs to be — it is simple and it ensures quality, taste and support for the local farmers and producers who work so hard.
“The ‘Blagdon seal’ sticker is a quality guarantee, which acts as a local food kitemark, and I can testify that the produce is exceptional.
“The in-house butcher and butchery counter teams are on hand to advise and help with different cuts of meat and there is wonderful service with a smile. Butcher apprentices are taken on and trained, a vital part of the business that will help to ensure the next generation of butchers.”
She added: “Jo and the team have a clear focus — quality local produce and giving customers access to the best that Northumberland has to offer.”
The shop, which employs about 20 staff, specialises in beef, pork and free-range poultry from its own farm, while its lamb comes from Rothbury. There is an in-house kitchen making ready meals, pies, quiches and cakes. The business also grows seasonal vegetables and works with more than 50 local producers.
It has seen a 20 per cent increase in sales since the horsemeat scandal broke, in which some beef-labelled products in supermarkets were found to contain horse or pork, and it is believed that more people are now turning to farm shops for clarity over their meat supplies.
Ms Celerier said: “We independently audit and visit our suppliers and only deal with people we trust or who have come to us via a very strong recommendation. We ourselves are independently audited by two separate bodies to prove that all that we say is true.
“The lengths that ourselves and other independent shops have to go to to comply with legislation is quite breathtaking to the extent that we have to pay an annual levy simply to be able to tell our customers that our beef comes from our own farm.
“We are very happy to do this, but we are shocked by the total disregard for basic legal requirements shown by some food businesses recently.”
Blagdon will represent the region at the UK and Ireland finals of the Countryside Alliance Awards in Parliament next month.
The awards also Highly Commended Belsay Shop in the Village Shop category.