“Food” – A Book Group

Food is something we are all interested in. But how does it get to our table? Ledbury Food Group introduces its new Book Group on Thursday 17th January at 7pm. It’s an opportunity for us to “chew the cud” over some of the themes of current books relating to our food, finding out about the joys and challenges farmers face and the history of production. Books such as “The Secret Life of Cows”, forwarded by Alan Bennett, which appeared last year are full of discussion topics. The author Rosamund Young came to Ledbury in March to talk about it. Her introduction explores traditional and commercial farming and the book features hilarious anecdotes about her experiences rearing cows.

“Pig” is the new book on the block. Written by Helen Browning, pig farmer and chief executive of the Soil Association, “Pig” is the first book I would like to introduce the Food-Book Group to. Helen has been invited to Ledbury in April to talk about her farming experiences, and undoubtedly sustainable farming and food production as well. Continue reading ““Food” – A Book Group”

How Can We Reduce Single Use Plastic in Ledbury?

Ledbury may not be on the coast, but it does have fantastic countryside which suffers from plastic waste in our parks, on the hills and country lanes.

We live in a disposable society, but that doesn’t mean that we should continue to use single use plastics that take several hundred to thousands of years to decompose Vs biodegradable bags or corn-starch take away containers that can take between 3 and 6 months decompose. Continue reading “How Can We Reduce Single Use Plastic in Ledbury?”

Milk Matters – What’s happened to our Milk?

What are the differences between the milk we buy at the supermarket and real milk?

Why do these differences exist and what are the health implications?

You are invited to join local author Rob Elliott and Sally Dean for another talk and discussion evening, this time to explore why milk is not like it used be. The evening is hosted by the Ledbury Library Development Group. John Barron, a local producer of scrumptious Jersey milk, will join us. You will have an opportunity to sample John’s milk and discover the true taste of milk as it used to be. Continue reading “Milk Matters – What’s happened to our Milk?”

What are the connections between food and good health? A further exploration

Rob Elliott and Sally Dean are back by popular request to explore further the modern-day myths and mis-information surrounding our food. Rob will introduce Jayne West, a kinesiologist who will introduce the fascinating therapy of kinesiology – an effective and holistic way of determining each individual’s unique dietary requirements. Continue reading “What are the connections between food and good health? A further exploration”

The future for Food, and a really good Feast…

Two events for you at the Master’s House, St Katherine’s, Ledbury

Where do we go from here with food and farming?

Rob Elliott and Sally Dean ask this question in the third of their talk/discussion series on Monday 16th November at 7pm.

Don’t worry if you missed the others in this series as there will be plenty to interest in this session.

Rob says, “We will discuss the options we have today regarding our future health and food security, looking also at how those options might address the problems of environmental degradation, human misery and the general ecological health of our planet.  Where do we go from here with regard to food and farming?  Can we continue to feed a growing population?  What about the obesity crisis?  Or indeed poverty and hunger?

We will look at these issues through the eyes of some of today’s new pioneers, including one of our very own back-to-nature (and “back to the future”) farmers, Simon Cutter of Model Farm near Ross-on-Wye, who will give us a brief but inspiring overview of how and why he farms in a genuinely sustainable way.”

Not to be missed, tickets costing £6 can be purchased in advance at Ledbury Library, and will be available on the night.   Your ticket includes light refreshments and a very local drink.

This event is organised by Ledbury Library Development Association in association with Ledbury Food Group.

Grass-fed cattle at Lower Hope, Ullingwick
Grass-fed cattle at Lower Hope, Ullingwick

Feast at the Master’s Table

Eat, drink, be merry and entertained at a splendid meal of local food in the glorious medieval setting of Ledbury’s Master’s House.

The Friends of the Master’s House invite you to join them, and the Master, on Saturday 21st November for an evening of food and entertainment starting from 7pm.

A three course meal of seasonal local specialities will be provided from the pop up kitchen manned by Belinda Sparey’s team from “The Best of Taste”.

Various musical and other divertissements will be provided to entertain you, and period costume is optional.

Tickets are now on sale at Ledbury Library for this special event at £30 – numbers are limited and tickets must be bought in advance.   Drinks will be available at the event.

This event – which could become an annual occasion – is organised as part of an ongoing programme of events at the recently restored and revived Master’s House.

Medieval Feast

Good food or bad food? A chance to find out more…

TheFoodMazeBook1We’ve all thought about whether food is good or bad for us, and what healthy eating is about.

In three monthly talk and discussion sessions starting on Monday 21st September, local writer Rob Elliott and his partner Sally Dean invite us to explore what we mean when we use these terms, and how we might improve our diet and our lives.

Rob Elliott is the author of “The Food Maze” and “How to eat like there’s no tomorrow”.

The sessions are being run by Ledbury Library Development Group (LLDG) in association with Ledbury Food Group. 

HowToEatBookThe themes of the three sessions are as follows:

Unravelling the Food Maze – Rob and Sally review our search for honest food. You want to eat healthily but is butter good for you or bad for you? What does ‘free range’ really mean? What is a balanced diet? Is it just too confusing?

Taking control of our own Health – Rob and Sally explore the connection between food, health and well-being.  They also consider the links between industrial food and the major health and environment issues of the 21st century.

“Being the change we want to see”: You are invited to think positively about the food you eat. Using the story of their own lives, Rob and Sally will suggest ways we can make informed changes in our lives and what we eat.

How can I take part?

The sessions take place on Monday 21st September, Monday 19th October and Monday 16th November in the Panelled Room at the Master’s House (Ledbury Library), Ledbury from 7pm to 9pm.  Light refreshments featuring local products will be provided.

Tickets for each session are £6 with a discount for LLDG members and Ledbury Food Group members on the night.

Tickets for each session are available to purchase from Ledbury Library 6 weeks before the session.

Parking (free from 6pm) is available in St Katherine’s Car Park, off Bye Street.

Please contact us at ask@ledburyfoodgroup.org if you need to know more.

Local food – what’s the point?

Amongst the new buzz words and phrases that have recently entered the lexicon, ‘local food’, ‘local produce, ‘locally sourced’ and others have come to define the trendy idea of supporting local producers rather than global retailers.  Detractors criticise this ethos as being no more than another example of hippy dippy thinking along the lines of the ‘wholefood revolution’ of the 1970s.  “What’s the point?” they ask disdainfully.  Supporters, on the other hand, cite well-argued and undeniably convincing reasons for their commitment to thinking local.  But is it really that black and white?

Farm shopThe usual reasons given for sourcing local food include: buying from people that can be trusted; supporting our local farmers; keeping money in the local economy; cutting carbon emissions through lowering food miles; and finding food that is fresh, tasty and seasonal.  These are all valid reasons that make perfect sense.  What one rarely hears, however, is the argument that links local food to health, an idea that merits further discussion.

To be swept along by the new wave of ethical evangelism and to enshrine the phrase ‘local food’ as the solution to our troubles is to miss the point.  ‘Local food’, though highly laudable as a concept, is not a destination, neither is it a starting point, but it is a crucial part of the journey before us.  That journey concerns health, and health should concern us all.  We are an increasingly sick species living in an increasingly sick environment, and we are all culpable.  The damage, degradation and destabilisation of our own species and of all life on this unique planet are down to us.  We have got things terribly wrong.  To understand this and to allow ourselves the humility to accept responsibility for it is to take the first step on that journey, a journey that promises to be exciting, scary, eventful, daunting, emotional but ultimately enlightening.

At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I believe that the industrialisation of our food is the culprit largely responsible for the devastation of our planet, and that real food could be a major part of the solution.  For clarity, I define real food as fresh, seasonal, produced using the principles of good husbandry, unadulterated and uncontaminated by chemicals.  To fulfil these criteria, it will usually be produced using organic methods on a small-scale at a local level – this is where the significance of ‘local food’ comes in, as part of a much bigger jigsaw and the source of real food.  Real food is what sustains life in all its myriad forms.  Real food starts with the soil.  Healthy soil teems with life, supports healthy plants and healthy animals, sustaining in turn healthy human beings and ultimately a healthy planet.  Industrial food does none of these things.

By sourcing local food that is real, we are making a stand against a culture of destruction and bad health.  We are told repeatedly that our current food system is the only one that will feed the world, but this is a lie.  The system that will feed – and heal – the world will be localised production of real food.  Yet some real foods (e.g. butter, eggs, unpasteurised whole milk, yoghurt, full-fat cheese and fatty red meats) are regularly demonised by an industry fully conversant with the high profitability of adding value to basic commodity crops by processing them, packaging them in brightly coloured containers and marketing them to obligingly compliant consumers.  To satisfy the demand for commodity crops to feed the factories, many millions of acres of what was once prime land are now under vast intensive monocultures saturated with life-taking pesticides (the suffix -cide means ‘kill’) and other toxic chemicals.

In contrast to this insanity, real food stands as a beacon of hope.  It is not disguised by processing, fancy packaging and slick marketing.  It is honest food produced by people who care – for their soils and farmland, for their crops and livestock, for the health and welfare of their customers.  They farm sustainably, ethically and organically without ever needing to use these words, and they live and work in the midst of us all.  Thus, in buying local food, we support and nurture them, because the rebirth of healthy future communities lies in the symbiosis of local producers and their customers.

We should be mindful, however, of two traps that can catch the unwary: local food is not necessarily real food, and buying locally should not exclude buying from artisan producers in other areas.  To illustrate the first point, there may be a local enterprise that uses imported ‘industrial’ ingredients in its products that damage the planet (for instance, palm oil, soya or corn products, all three of which are doing untold damage around the globe, and do not represent anything that might be called ‘local food’).  Is such a product ethical, sustainable or real?  It is a question that we must be brave enough to ask.

Secondly, when it comes to real food produced locally in another region, its purchase should not be excluded simply because it does not come from our own region.  We are in the early stages of trying to regain our connection to real food production, and all artisan producers who meet the criteria should be given support.  In an ideal world, all of the food needs of any given community will be met by the producers within that community.  We don’t yet live in such a world, but there is no harm in acknowledging everyone who is helping us to get there.

There is much more that could be said on this theme, but for now let us be satisfied that local real food will play a major role in the recovery of our damaged planet.  And, to return to the original question, let’s be clear – the point of local food is that it is only at a small-scale localised level, wherever it might be, that we can find the real food we need to sustain us, produced by people who understand the relationship between this and a healthy planet.

Model Farm


Author profile:

Rob Elliott is an advocate of small-scale, ecologically benign, localised real food production, as well as a believer in local economies in general.  He is the author of two books, The Food Maze and How To Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow.  Together with his partner, Sally Dean, he ran a ‘real food’ B&B near Ross-on-Wye for 12 years until 2014.  Both Rob and Sally are now active in bringing locally sourced nutritional food into the community through the development of food hubs.  For further information, contact Rob and Sally directly on sallyandrob@aspenhouse.net (tel 01432 840353).