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WEEKEND: FOOD: Countryside comes to town; FARMERS FAYRE SHOP PRIDES ITSELF ON BRINGING LOCAL PRODUCE TO THE HIGH STREET AT COMPETITIVE PRICES.

Byline: ANN EVANS

ANN EVANS meets the owners who offer the benefits of farmers' markets all through the week FOR the discerning cook looking to buy fresh local products, a new trend is bringing the countryside to the high street.

Alongside the growth in the popularity of farmers' markets, shops too are now starting to focus more on "home-grown" food.

Among them is Farmers Fayre in Abbey End, Kenilworth, run by Nicola Reece and John Bell, who are partners in the business which last year won Shop of the Year in the Mid-Warwickshire Business Awards.

They sell a diversity of food, including meat, cheeses, eggs, flour, bakery products, jams, pickles, juices, ice creams - all of which have been produced or farmed within a 40-mile radius of the town.

"We promote good local products and pride ourselves on good quality and good service," says 31-year-old Nicola. She manages the Kenilworth shop, as well as their new butchers at Hatton Country World and John Bell's Berryfields Farm in Daventry, where Farmers Fayre beef originates.

She explained: "As beef farmers we started going to farmers' markets and found there was a big demand, but it was only one day a month. Having the shop enables us to offer the same products six days a week - seven now that we are at Hatton.

"Everything here is reasonably priced. Often people's perception is that if it's local produce it must be expensive, but our prices are comparable with supermarket prices. In effect the product is coming straight from the farm to the shop, so you are cutting out the middle man.

"Also, traceability is vital. A lot of people ask about the products they are buying and it's good that we are able to tell them.

"We are bringing the countryside to the high street, giving people the convenience of buying local, fresh products right on their doorstep."

Farmers Fayre is part of Heart of England Fine Foods - an organisation formed to promote speciality food and drink produced locally in the region - and opened two years ago.

Its range includes pork from Rugby, lamb from Maidford near Daventry, venison from the Shuckburgh Estate in Northants, poultry from Balsall Common, and even on occasions buffalo from Napton.

But it is not just a butcher's, there are also local cheeses, pork pies, cakes, fruit pies, honey, butter, jams, preserves, fruit coulis and fruit drinks. There are usually samples for customers to try before they buy.

Nicola, with an eye on quality, always visits the farmers who want to supply to them, and all the meat comes under the strict requirements of the Meat Gold Assurance Scheme. Farmers Fayre's own beef is from a specialised herd of continental heifers at Berryfields Farm.

Nicola said: "Our beef is of such good quality because we hang it for three to four weeks, which gives it that added flavour and succulence which supermarkets cannot match. With hanging you get some shrinkage which supermarkets don't want because they go more for quantity rather than quality.

"But once people have tasted the difference in this traditional style of meat they come back and say how good things are. They are very loyal."

Farmers Fayre now supplies a number of local restaurants, including Kanes Farmhouse Restaurant at Hatton.

"It's very important to support our local farmers, and we would love to see more restaurants and B&Bs using more locally products," added Nicola. "When it's competitive in price and you can guarantee quality and traceability, what's better than to eat locally produced foods?"

Farmers Fayre, 51 Abbey Court, Abbey End, Kenilworth, phone 01926 864141, www.farmers-fayre.co.uk. Farmers Fayre also does home delivery. Farmer puts his faith in the small customer RAM Hall Dairy Farm cheese is just one of many local cheeses on sale at Farmers Fayre.

Farmer Stephen Fletcher makes the ewes' cheese from the milk of his 400- strong flock of Frieslands at the family's farm in Berkswell.

The farm also sells through speciality wholesalers, including Neal's Yard Dairy in London, the UK's largest outlet for speciality cheese, as well as various smaller outlets and shops. The one supermarket it supplies is Waitrose.

Stephen, who won a Sainsbury's/BBC Good Food Magazine Great British Food Award for his Berkswell cheese this year, said: "The small customers are as important as the big customers.

"It's nice to supply the local shops because we get a lot of support from local people.

"Shops such as Farmers Fayre are invaluable to local producers. People are becoming more aware of buying local products and supporting local farmers."

CAPTION(S):

LOCAL QUALITY: Farmers Fayre staff Clare Whitlock with bottled sauces and Dave White with the sausages. Pictures: MARK RADFORD. SAY CHEESE: Employee Bernie Holt offers more quality produce to customers. LIFT-OFF: Farmers Fayre co-owner Nicola Reece tosses a pancake outside the shop in readiness for Shrove Tuesday next week. The pancakes were made with eggs from Marsh Farm, Bromsgrove and flour from Wellesbourne Watermill; and on them is an award-winning fruit coulis from Best of Taste Company, Oswestry. TASTY: Stephen fletcher with his award-winning ewes' milk cheese.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:852
Previous Article:WEEKEND: TIME TUNNEL: Yeomen on parade as war loomed; ... A JOURNEY INTO OUR RICH HERITAGE.
Next Article:WEEKEND: FOOD: JAMIE'S DISH.


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