In 2022 Oxfordshire councils endorsed Good Food Oxfordshire’s local Food Strategy that identifies ‘strengthening short, transparent local food supply chains’ as a key priority. Our end goal is a local supply chain solution for Oxfordshire that enables small and medium producers to supply directly to local buyers, including institutions and businesses. The first step involves buy-in and commitment to this vision from key players – both local suppliers and institutional buyers.
To help achieve this, Good Food Oxfordshire worked in partnership with FarmEd and the NE CotswoldFarming Cluster to host a dinner celebrating local food, with guests ranging from Oxfordshire-based producers, institutional buyers from colleges and school catering teams, local government and Velocity – a low carbon logistics company.
Ultimately the purpose of this dinner was to build relationships between local producers and institutional buyers; but also to explore barriers and opportunities to local supply chains so that we can help build the right systems and processes; to highlight the benefits of supporting our local food economy and shortening supply chains; and to explore ways in which we can make locally produced food easier to access for everyone.
Guests enjoyed a four-course meal at Balliol College, Oxford - prepared by head chefs Ben Gibbons, Bertrand Faucheux and Markus Gerber from St Anne’s, Balliol and Lady Margaret Hall colleges respectively– with produce almost entirely from Oxfordshire suppliers, many of whom were guests at the dinner. Patrick Holden, founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, hosted the event and spoke passionately about the need for shortened supply chains and his longstanding career in this area, from a small-scale carrot producer to a cheese maker, and as head of both the Soil Association and more recently the Sustainable Food Trust.
One element of the dinner, which helped to connect producers and buyers, was a changing seating plan between each course, ensuring maximum opportunity to network and build relationships. The final call to action, at the end of the evening, involved asking buyers to pledge one commitment to sourcing more local produce from at least one supplier.
It seems that everyone learnt something from the event. For the chefs the challenge was to create a complete four-course menu, using only produce that was available locally at this time of year. For the producers, getting the timing and logistics aligned to support the chefs’ schedules required precision planning and clear coordination.
The chefs had some interesting reflections in producing a menu where every element involved ingredients from local suppliers. Markus, Head chef of LMH commented “As a consumer, people might not think of that little bit of locally made flour or bread to thicken something, those vegetable ends rounding off the flavour of the jus, that dash of cream smoothing out the custard etc. But those ‘nonvisible’ ingredients were playing an important part of the meal as the more dominant and visible items like the meat, veg, cured egg and others did. And then, there were the goods which didn’t even needed any processing from our end; beautiful cheeses, relish, bread, apple juice and others.”
There were several outcomes of the dinner, notably for many of the producers new relationships were established with potential buyers. Furthermore a wider conversation was generated as to how a local supply chain could work in reality, from sourcing, to ordering, delivery and logistics, and ensuring commitment from both supply and demand. This will take time and commitment from a range of stakeholders, and this event was the catalyst to start.
We would like to thank the suppliers to this evening for the wonderful sustainable produce that they provided. These include:
For more information on local suppliers see our Local Supplier Directory.
Photo credit: Ben Gibbons.