LOCAL growers say now is the time for shoppers to buy Welsh food direct from suppliers as the coronavirus pandemic exposes supermarket supply chain flaws.
While the shelves at some major retailers in Wales are stripped bare of eggs, meat and milk, produce is still in plentiful supply at the many farm shops, growers, raw milk suppliers and other local food businesses working hard to keep the nation fed.
Gerald Miles, who runs Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture (COCA) from his farm at St Davids, is urging Welsh shoppers to grasp the opportunity to stock their cupboards with locally produced food.
He hopes the current crisis will change buying habits and result in long-term support from consumers to local businesses, not only at times when they can’t get key items at a supermarket.
“What the country is experiencing now really gives us a reality check on who we should be depending on for food and produce,” says Mr Miles, whose work as a Farming Connect focus farmer resulted in a rapid composting system that provides nutrition for the vegetables he grows.
Although early spring is the ‘hungry gap’ at Caerhys, so-called because the variety of food grown on the farm is limited, COCA is overcoming this through its link with other community-based organisations.
These deliver other kinds of organic vegetables and fruit and products like flour to the farm so members still get a plentiful supply of food.
Mr Miles says COCA had 60 members before the pandemic but in the last fortnight more people had joined.
He says it is now more important than ever for people to understand where their food really comes from – not from the supermarket but from farmers and growers.
“With everything closed down and movements restricted, we need to learn from this experience. We should really value the Welsh countryside and what we can grow here.”
COCA is now considering options for drop-off points for delivering its produce, instead of members coming to the farm for their supplies.
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.