As we beetle our way around Yorkshire shouting from the rafters about God’s own bounty, we’re always struck by how much the county represents all that is fabulous about Britain’s food and drink. Think of the best of British and and we have so much of the best of it right here in Yorkshire.
Not that I need to tell Yorkshire folk that. But as we travel around showcasing some of our finest producers and chefs to visitors; creating our own pop-up gourmet dinners for food lovers using the best ingredients that Yorkshire has to offer; helping to organise the first ever artisan food festival to be held at Meadowhall this Easter; knocking up seasonal local produce recipes each month for BBC Radio York
; arranging cookery demonstrations for this year’s Great Yorkshire Show
, or hosting two American culinary travel professionals in conjunction with Welcome to Yorkshire – I’m struck by the quality and diversity of the food and drink that is reared, grown, created, baked, cooked, distilled or brewed here, and the passion, commitment and expertise that goes into doing so.
And yet, how we manage it, market it, shout about it isn’t joined up. As far as I can tell there is no overall food and drink strategy for Yorkshire that policy makers and the people at the sharp end of what we create can collectively shout about and deliver as one.
There is no unifying approach that we can all get behind that puts Yorkshire at the forefront of the nation’s culinary map. We have lots of wonderful people doing amazing things, and a variety of organisations doing admirable stuff for their members, but we don’t speak with one voice, seemingly preferring to operate in foodie functional silos, each banging our own drum but not being in step as a marching band.
I believe that whatever our organisation, or our business big or small, we need a food and drink strategy that collectively maximises the opportunities to develop, promote and emblazon Yorkshire’s food and drink offer in a way that nationally and internationally recognises us as a ‘must visit’ culinary destination.
Over the hill in Lancashire they’ve developed a food and drink strategy with a three-year action plan and they’re already working to position the county as the ‘food and drink country.’ That’s great for them, but don’t we need to be doing at least this, if not more, too?
Back in November there was an event organised by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in which much was said by Elizabeth Truss about Britain’s food and drink pioneers
coming together to help Britain become a Great Food Nation. It was also said that 2016 would be the Year of British Food, but try as I might I can’t find a jot of information that suggests this has been taken forward other than what was said at the time.
There’s so, so much we could do over and above the sterling work that currently goes on.
Why, for instance, can we not seize the day in relation to the intent of that Defra event and bring together our own food and drink pioneers to help Yorkshire become a Great Food County – indeed, the greatest food county in the land?
What about developing a Taste of Yorkshire accreditation scheme that recognises the quality assurance of our producers, growers, restaurants, cafés and other food businesses in a way that such a badge of honour becomes recognisable as a quality marque to all who see it?
How about us developing a more lobbying role that addresses such inequities as a smokehouse in East Yorkshire being allowed far less shelf life for its products by local EHOs than similar businesses in North Yorkshire, a fact which clearly unfairly impacts on business capability?
Should we not be talking more about the role farming has had in creating and sustaining the wonderful landscapes of our national parks and AONBs?
We talk about us having more Michelin-starred restaurants than any county outside London (Lancashire’s only got one, by the way) but should we not be telling anyone who will listen that we also have 11 commercial vineyards including the most northerly commercial vineyard in the UK, some 180 breweries who between them have brewed more than 6,500 beers, we make around 85 different cheeses, produce 20% of British lamb and are the malted barley capital of the UK (very useful for making all those beers…)