Food group turns 20 and dishes out gifts

A dessert at Vatika Restaurant in Wickham.
A dessert at Vatika Restaurant in Wickham.
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When Hampshire Fare began life, most people weren’t flocking to farmer’s markets, examining food labels and rocketing to the organic food aisles with their shopping trolleys.

The food market was very different when the organisation was launched 20 years ago. But now Hampshire Fare is at the forefront of the local seasonal and organic produce boom.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the county food group is offering some fabulous prizes for food lovers.

They include lunch for two at Vatika Restaurant at Wickham Vineyard, a seven-course tasting menu for two at The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu and a chocolate workshop in Alresford.

The organisation is also inviting food lovers to an event in Winchester on Thursday, February 24.

This will include drinks, seasonal canapes and the opportunity to meet Hampshire Fare members from across the county.

Established in 1991 by a small group of farmers and producers, the organisation promotes the benefits of buying local produce.

Hampshire Fare’s Sophie Boxall says: ‘Effectively it’s a voice for local producers. By joining together, they have a much stronger voice for promoting their food and encouraging people to support the local rural economy.’

Members include dairy, meat and crop farmers, butchers, fishmongers, bakers, vineyards, beekeepers and even buffalo farmers.

The organisation, which is supported by Hampshire County Council and several corporate partners, stages the annual Hampshire Food Festival, which gives people in the county the chance to try local, seasonal foods and meet the producers.

More people are exploring the food-buying options and Sophie says there are good reasons.

‘People want to know where their food has come from and meeting the producers allows them to ask questions and find out more about what they’re eating. And your butcher, fishmonger or producer can also offer advice on what to do with different cuts and make the most out of what you are buying.’

And Hampshire Fare’s drive to promote local produce also falls in line with concerns over food miles.

‘I think it’s much better to enjoy strawberries when they’re in season rather than when they’ve been flown half way round the world,’ says Sophie. ‘They’re tasty and fresh and by eating in this way you’re supporting your rural economy. About 85 per cent of Hampshire is rural so it’s very important in this county.’

For more information about the competitions, sign up to the Hampshire Fare newsletter at www.hampshirefare.co.uk. The anniversary event takes place at Winchester Guildhall on February 24 between 6pm and 8pm. Tickets cost £10 per person. Call Katy McCaffrey at Hampshire Fare on 01962 846509 to reserve tickets, then download the booking form on the website and return by post with payment, to arrive at Hampshire Fare by Monday.