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March 2008

Food Train object to proposed Tesco expansion in Wolverton

The directors of Food Train recently wrote to Alan Mills the planning officer for MK Council who is overseeing the current application by Tesco to expand the store to over twice its current size. We'd encourage you to write in and raise your objections too - email alan.mills@milton-keynes.gov.uk

This is what we said -

Dear Mr Mills

Objection to planning application 07/0195/FUL by Tesco

Food Train is a Wolverton based community organisation dedicated to improving human health, environmental quality and animal welfare. Food Train was set up following Wolverton’s Market Towns Healthcheck in 2002-2004. This community planning process resulted in the Future Wolverton Vision, Wolverton Regeneration Strategy and its SPG for Wolverton.

In 2005 we were funded by Natural England to assess the local food economy in Milton Keynes in relation to the growth agenda. This report, entitled Food MK concluded that a more localised, diverse food system is required in Milton Keynes in order to meet central government objectives set out in the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food and ensure that the city’s planned growth in population is sustainable.

We object to the planning application for an expanded Tesco store in Wolverton because it runs contrary to the recommendations of the Food MK report - which call for a diverse, localised retail food sector which keeps money in the local economy rather than it leaking out. The report was supported and endorsed by MK’s Strategic Environmental Partnership, MK Primary Care Trust, Parks Trust MK and Natural England. (A copy of the report can be downloaded here http://www.foodtrain.org.uk/page.php?pageid=FoodMK )

We are also very concerned that increased traffic and increased pollution will not be sufficiently mitigated given our Victorian road infrastructure and densely urban street layout. This issue would be compounded further by the increase in traffic caused by customers coming from the new Western expansion and developments in Stantonbury Farm, Rockwell Pipes and at Hanslope to use the store. Though effectively an ‘in town’ store, the store will actually function much like an ‘out of town’ store - drawing trade away from Stony Stratford, Newport Pagnell and New Bradwell.

We are extremely worried that an increased Tesco store would be detrimental to the vitality and viability of Wolverton’s retail economy. The store plans to increase its ‘comparison’ goods by 207% which will be in direct competition to independent businesses in the town. You were witness to two local shop owners at the public meeting sharing their frustrations that Tesco have started selling niche lines in direct competition with them and one, who rents a shop unit on Stratford Rd telling us that their contract with Tesco stipulates that only goods not sold by Tesco can be sold by them. This will leave very few options for local traders, immediately decreasing the vitality and diversity of Wolverton’s retail sector both now and making it irreparable in the future. Tesco’s ‘evidence’ of 40% linked trips is a red herring. In a town where the retail market is already damaged and delicate, the idea of linked trips is an insult. They should be asked to produce this evidence specific to Wolverton because in our experience of shopping in the town, these linked trips simply do not happen.

We hope that the Council will object to this application and ensure Wolverton remains a viable district centre in line with the Wolverton Regeneration Strategy and all the hard work and investment that has been made so far. It will certainly have Food Train’s support if it does.

Yours sincerely

etc.

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Garden Friends reach final of UKTV Food Local Food Hero Awards 2007

Mark and Val who run Garden Friends, selling plants and herbs at Wolverton Farmers Market have reached the final of the UKTV Local Food Hero Awards. Well done guys!!

Here's what the website has to say about them -

'Garden Friends Vegetable Box Scheme offers customers a selection of fresh Bedfordshire vegetables, all sourced from local growers within a 15 mile radius, meaning that food miles are kept low. Weekly boxes come in three different sizes, and contain a variety of seasonal favourites, such as corgettes, tomatoes, new potatoes, carrots and lettuce. Extras can also be ordered, and these range from freshly dried herbs, juices, free-range eggs, flour, honey, and even fudge. Free delivery is offered to surrounding villages, as well as those living away from the countryside in Bedford itself.

We are delighted to support small local growers and offer our customers the taste of trutly local seasonal vegetables

It is a great honour for us and we would like to thank all our growers and customers for there support over the last three summers.'

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Stallholder news from Wolverton Farmers Market

Blessed are the cheesemakers

We've had some news from Wobbly Bottom Farm this month, our popular cheesemakers. Angela tells us that they have nearly completed a barn conversion at their farm outside Hitchin. This will enable them to make more and more cheese on the farm rather than sending their milk up to Yorkshire. They will also be able to make their own hard cow's cheese with milk from a dairy co-op in South Mims. Great news for them and all you cheese lovers!

Keeping it local

We are welcoming new stallholders Lavinia and Mark Kendall of Cottage Garden nursery at Great Brickhill, this month. Lavinia told us,

'We breed and rear our own pigs and sheep, they travel roughly 25 minutes to the abattoir which is family run. Mark then butchers the meat. We make burgers and sausages and also produce our own bacon, this we have cured in Flitton Beds by another family run concern. We have our feed milled and mixed in Stewkley, this is made up from wheat, barley and soya. We are very aware that people are more concerned now, of what they eat, and take great care with the meat that we produce. We grow our own herbs and perennials.'

We're thrilled that they are joining us and helping to make Wolverton Farmers Market top of the list when it comes to really local sourcing.

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Review of Activities 2006/2007

As an organisation, Food Train was officially born a year ago. We want to share with you what's happened since then in the form of a review of our activities. A formal annual report will be published following completion of our accounts by our accountants.

Food Train Review of Activities 2006/7

Now more than ever, people are asking big questions about climate change and how it is affecting our planet. Sometimes it can feel like an insurmountable challenge and our efforts can seem insignificant compared to the scale of the problem.

Food – where it comes from and how it is produced is one of the key areas where individuals can take positive action for change. Back in 2003 when we were taking part in creating the vision for the future of Wolverton, we realised that developing a more sustainable and equitable local food system would be vital to ensuring the town could respond to climate change in a positive way. As Milton Keynes continues to grow, so too does the urgency of creating a food system that is better for people and the environment.

Challenging government and business to take action is important, but so too is building local resilience. Many things we take for granted will dramatically change in our low carbon future. How we feed ourselves will be very different and we will no longer be able to rely on ‘someone else’ to put food on our plates.

That might sound quite dramatic, but if we embrace this opportunity we may start to see that instead of animal disease epidemics, obesity, pesticide poisoning, farmer suicides and supermarket monopolies we could really build thriving localised alternatives where people are more connected to the earth, animals and each other.

So, what have we been doing in the past year to help build these alternatives?

Wolverton Farmers Market

Last year saw the market start running twice a month with a number of new stall holders including the Foundation Allotment project, selling their surplus fruit and vegetables and baby veg plants. The Foundation are local alternative education providers and are our partners in the urban farm project (see below)

This year saw the start of the Funky Teapot, the market’s very own eco-café. It has become the hub of the market – a meeting place serving snacks and fresh handmade herb teas (and coffee!) in china cups. Run by local residents Peter and Lindsay, they have an impeccable organic/local/seasonal policy and as much waste a possible is composted or recycled. This is such a welcome addition to the market and has created a real sense of community by offering a place for people to meet and find out more about food and local issues.

The start of the year also saw us lose one of our most loved traders, Angela Adderson. As one of the two remaining dairy farms in the area, we were so lucky to be able to persuade Angela to keep supplying us with her milk and cream so that we could sell it on her behalf.

For some time we had been contemplating some kind of co-operative stall that could sell small batch and varied produce from local producers where they could not for whatever reason, sell direct. We now have organic bread made at the Camphill community in Willen and we are looking at funding to take this idea forward as a way of helping local people find out if they have a talent for making and selling food – without having to take any financial risks.

Some of the fun we have had at the market this year has also included:

· Kinds craft activities laid on by the Community Orchard including apple day celebrations

· Two MK Council ‘Listening days’ which proved very popular!

· A consultation on the planned expansion of Tesco with 180 comments collected and passed on the MKC planners.

· Petitions and leaflets available on Compassion in World Farming campaigns, the Shop Local First campaign and Fairtrade Fortnight.

· Free stalls for local groups to raise funds and awareness

Most of the stalls come from within a thirty mile radius of Wolverton, which is quite an achievement, particularly seeing as we are in an urban area with little traditional farming happening in the rural hinterland. The exception to this is our fishmonger from Brightlingsea – but we can’t do much about that being so far from the sea!

Food MK

The difficulties we have encountered in trying to find local producers led us to a conversation with contacts at the then Countryside Agency (now Natural England) who had supported us in setting up the first pilot markets. They asked us to look at why it was proving difficult – where had all the farmers gone and what could be done about it. Could community supported urban agriculture provide a solution? We carried out this commission over seven months in 2006 and it culminated in a comprehensive assessment of MK’s local food economy, a short film, a business plan for an urban farm and an emerging network of local people concerned with taking action.

Eat the City

Following on from the Food MK report, we have been working to establish a programme of practical action backed up with work to ensure that local planning, economic and community policies support ‘alternative food networks’.

In terms of practical work, we have prioritised action on allotments as the ‘first tier’ of the urban land portfolio for food production. The Food MK report identified the precarious position of allotments within the city, in terms of the multiple threats from unchecked development, lack of strategy, funding, and promotion and knowledge networks.

Allotments in the city must be valued and run properly if we want to move forward towards a stable local food economy. We hope to carry out a detailed independent survey of allotments in MK, looking at both the environmental and social capital they support. We will then use this to push for a comprehensive city strategy on allotments as well as supporting parish councils to develop their own local strategies.

We also believe it is vital to demonstrate what urban farming looks like and how it can work on a collective level. Working with MK Christian Foundation’s Foundation Food programme and other local partners, we are developing an experimental urban farm on a piece of derelict land in Wolverton.

We hope that this project will involve people in finding out how food can be grown in small urban spaces and provide affordable organic fresh fruit and veg for the farmers market. Through the Foundation Food programme, it will also provide education and training to young people who are outside mainstream education.

We have so far made some significant strides in getting MK decision makers to take food issues seriously and commit to going further. We have:

· Secured commitment to a comprehensive focus on local food within the revision of the Local Agenda 21 and Community strategies

· Worked with The Parks Trust to develop a vision for making MK’s parks places for food growing, in particular by using edible landscaping programmes

· Influenced the new Core Strategy planning framework for MK to ensure local food production is presented as a strategic issue

· Secured commitment to getting local food production included in the new Landscape and Open Space strategy

· Demonstrated how local food can fulfil elements of the city’s Growth Strategy concerned with landscape, community and sustainability at a number of meetings, growth events and discussions

· Been invited to prepare a ‘topic paper’ on local food for MK’s Strategic Environmental Partnership

We hope to take this important work forward in the coming year.

Organisation

As an organisation we’ve seen a few changes this year. We welcomed five new directors – Roger Kitchen, David Hancock, Margaret Eyres and Maggie and Brian Pemberton and are keen to find a few more so if you have skills in finance, business planning or legal work please do get in touch with us.

This year also saw the development of Food Train’s website which keeps people up to date with market dates, special events and new projects and the Eat the City blog which we hope will help people to share knowledge about what’s happening in the global alternative food network.

The support of local people has been vital in our work and we’ve been tremendously heartened by the enthusiasm displayed by the Friends of Wolverton Farmers Market. We look forward to the group going from strength to strength and helping to make real the vision of a food system created by and for the community.

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Help plant public fruit this weekend!

If you're in MK there's a nice opportunity this Saturday 24th March to help plant blackberry and gooseberry bushes on public land around the Drill Hall allotments in New Bradwell.

The session starts at 10am and children are welcome if supervised by an adult. All you need to do is bring a spade and let Mike Street at The Parks Trust know you will be coming by emailing m.street@theparkstrust.com

Meet in the car park next to the allotments off the Newport Road.

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Fairtrade Fortnight Celebrations in MK

Have a coffee with a coffee farmer! Marlon Villareyna, a Nicaraguan Fairtrade coffee farmer will visit Sust! Wednesday 28th February (2-2.30 pm ) Come and find out the difference that Fairtrade makes, and if you have any questions ~ who better to ask?

Brew for a Better World - free tea, coffee and biscuits Thursdays 1st and 8th March. Enter our Fairtrade quiz to win a place on a Traidcraft Meet the People tour to India.

International Womens Day Thurs 8th March - 10% discount on goods made by womens groups.

Sust!, Milton Keynes Fair Trade shop, in the Food Centre (Central Milton Keynes) is a community enterprise run by Milton Keynes Global Centre.

Visit their website

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Friday 9th February

Wolverton Farmers Market news: After losing Angela Adderson's wonderful dairy stall, we're pleased to announce that we are now able to offer her milk, cream and often butter each market alongside the Funky Teapot cafe. And hold on to your hats - we also have bread! We're experimenting with ordering a selection of loaves from the Camphill community bakery at Willen, here in MK. The white, granary, seeded and sourdough loaves are all made with organic ingredients. We think you'll agree they're really delicious.

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Monday 29th January

Watch the Food MK film here! Highlighting why the development of a local food economy is of vital importance to making sure the growing city is a sustainable one, the film, funded by Natural England explores the ideas put forward in the Food MK report.

David Foster, the Chief Executive of the Parks Trust recently said 'the Food MK project shows that food is one of the most exciting ways we can tackle climate change and build sustainable communities in Milton Keynes.'

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Friday 19th January

Media saturation has hit a high on food issues this month with David Miliband and Patrick Holden slugging it out over organic farming and M&S and Tesco announcing multi-million plans to 'go green'.

Now in our third year at Wolverton Farmers Market, we're glad to see these big stores following our lead. Over the next few weeks we'll be profiling some of our wonderful local producers, highlighting the ways they work hard to bring you delicious produce while looking after our environment. Stay tuned!

More about Holden/Miliband 'discussion'

More about Tesco's green plan announcement

More about M&S green plans

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Monday 1st January

Next Wolverton Farmers Market is Saturday 6th January.

We're trying out a few new stallholders in the coming months - another honey producer, another fishmonger and an exciting new refreshment stand. More info coming soon!

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Thursday 14th December

Download the much coveted (sorry, userfile id '2007calendar' not found in database) Designed by local artist Heather Talbot, stick it on your fridge and never miss a date again.

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Wednesday 13th December

Read about the struggle for land, local political wrangles, self-doubt, potatoes vs polytunnels and much more in our new blog Eat the City

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Friday 8th December 2006

Grub's Up!

Events, recipes, competitions and much more! Read (sorry, userfile id 'grub' not found in database)the winter edition of our newsletter.

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Monday, 4th December 2006

Eat the City: Food MK shows us how

Food Train has published Food MK, an exciting new report which shows why food should take centre stage in the challenge to create sustainable communities and tackle climate change in Milton Keynes.

Funded by Natural England, the report makes a brave call for a return to the original garden city vision for Milton Keynes, enhancing established areas and creating new productive landscapes such as allotments, community orchards and market gardens.

It highlights the opportunities these landscapes create to cut carbon emissions, create jobs and improve quality of life for all. It also suggests ways that local authorities can help communities support farming in MK�s rural hinterland by improving the way locally produced food is retailed in local shops and markets.

For the first time, an assessment of the local food economy in MK was carried out - with some surprising results! Initial assessments appeared to show MK as a local food desert though further investigation unearthed a significant number of previously unknown food producers with the fastest growing sector being individual entrepreneurs and community food initiatives � local people and projects growing, processing and selling food in the heart of the city.

As a way of understanding what drives people to do this and what support is needed to encourage more of this enterprising activity, international and UK case studies and best practice feature in the report alongside an ambitious business plan for an Urban Farm as a living demonstration of possible city farming futures.

The work shows how these themes are supported by local and national policy and sets out a challenging Action Plan for stakeholders to 2011.

Download the full Food MK report -

Food MK Introduction (pdf, 1910 K)

Growing Food for a Growing City (pdf, 340 K)

MK Foodcheck (pdf, 506 K)

Eat the City (pdf, 291 K)

An Urban Farm for Milton Keynes (pdf, 654 K)

Wolverton Farmers Market Dates for 2008
March 15th
April 5th & 19th
May 3rd & 17th
June 7th & 21st
July 5th & 19th
August 2nd & 16th
Sept 6th & 20th
Oct 4th & 18th
Nov 1st & 15th
Dec 6th & 20th