Henrietta Green launches Level's Best
The South Somerset Food Festival on 29 September - part of British Food Fortnight - saw the launch of a brand which will raise the quality-bar for all locally produced food and drink.
Called "Levels' Best" its bring together the finest producers within the 260 square miles of the Levels.
"Levels' Best" is endorsed by the award-winning local food campaigner Henrietta Green who launched the brand at the Festival. Her website is foodloversbritain.com,.
"The Somerset Levels and Moors have long been a favourite area in Britain, with their seemingly undisturbed and timeless beauty," she said. "For years now, I have also enjoyed their wealth of produce and that is why I welcome the Levels' Best initiative. It will offer the consumer assurance of provenance, traceability and tradition - and that has to be a good thing."
Project manager Elaine Spencer-White said that currently around 30 producer members are qualified to use the Levels' Best logo in 10 categories - many in more than one category: lamb and saltmarsh lamb, beef, poultry and eggs, dairy, game and fish, fruit and nuts, vegetables and honey, drinks and processed foods.
Entry criteria are strict, she added. "Meat and poultry must be from native breeds farmed on the Levels - all with a minimum of food miles and to the highest standards set by external bodies like the Soil Association. No GMO's are allowed."
Nearly 40 attractions and accommodation providers have gained associate status by committing to stock and serve at least two Levels' Best products, and a further nine have applied for membership.
The new website, www.levelsbest.co.uk, has just gone live which, as well as listing members and describing the food and drink qualified to bear the Levels' Best logo, allows a detailed trace to be carried out. Visitors will be able to determine the breed and provenance of beef cattle and see where their meat is being served and sold.
Residents and visitors will be able to find out about the traceability of suppliers but those living outside Somerset will also be able to buy the products online through the website.
The first producers to join were Merricks Organic Farm near Langport where Jane and Simon Brooke primarily grow fruit and vegetables for their weekly organic vegetables boxes and some beef, Rob Whitcombe who rears North Devon (Ruby Red) cattle on a Natural England Nature Reserve at Shapwick Heath, Chris and June Harries of Sedgemoor Honey from Creech St Michael - pure honey from hives on the Levels, and Hugh Tripp of Avalon Vineyards with his organic fruit wines and award winning Raspberry Liqueur.
Spencer-White described Levels' Best as being "less of a brand than a lifestyle philosophy". She said: "It creates a virtuous circle linking the interests of producers, consumers - and consumers' children, many of who have no idea where their meat, bread, jam or sausages come from.
"I expect it to become a source of education as well as a beacon of quality, and to offer a future for farms on the Levels with valuable knock-on benefits for the tourist industry, transport and employment."