A ground-breaking conference aimed at establishing new links between farmers, food businesses, public agencies and the general public will take place in Forfar in May.
Organised by the Food Life, the local community benefit scheme behind last weekend’s Taste of Angus festival, the conference will be addressed by Masterchef professional winner Gary MacLean, leading farmers, restaurateurs and food distribution groups.
According to Jillian McEwan, a founder member of the Food Life, the event will offer innovative solutions and novel approaches to farming and marketing and will aim to encourage the next generation of producers and cooks to enter the industry.
“We want to inspire the next generation who have maybe seen their father and mother struggling on the farm trying to make money off mass production and working with middle men. We’ve spoken to a lot of farmers and they’re really interested in trying something new to gain more revenue from their business, whether it’s producing their own products and doing direct sales or trying novel products,” she said.
“The conference will hear from distributors who can better connect farmers to their end customers and other sessions will focus on innovation in farming and sustainable practices, looking at different livestock, organic farming and precision farming.
“My husband’s family have grown potatoes for years and they’ve always been at the mercy of how much processors are willing to pay them – and that’s dictated by the supermarkets.
“More and more farmers are asking what other products they can add to their repertoire that they can sell direct and which don’t necessarily need to go through processing plants. There’s also a big move to bring the processing in house.”
The Angus region is leading the way in promoting the food and farming link in Scotland, and whilst the event is focused on local food production, Ms McEwan said farmers in neighbouring Aberdeenshire, Fife and Perthshire would be welcome if they were interested in changing the way they’re currently producing and selling food.
She added: “The event’s not just about improving profits for farmers and businesses, it’s about attracting people to the region and improving life for everyone.”
A networking lunch will be provided by award-winning chef Adam Newth from Kinettles Castle, Forfar and The Tayberry at Broughty Ferry.
the first time an industry led group has got together and asked how we effect change, so we have farmers fishermen, cafe owners, chefs, retailers, restaurateurs and volunteers interested in improving the food system all working together.
The event will also launch membership of the Food Life, the voluntary partnership of farmers, food businesses, communities and public agencies who have established a connected food system for the benefit of everyone living in Angus.
The Next Generation of Angus food conference will take place at Forfar Community Centre on May 20.