Regional focus for new food centre

A £2.5m store dedicated to regional food and farming has opened its doors to shoppers in Ludlow, Shropshire.

The store, which is open seven days a week, has been billed a regional centre of excellence for food and farming, promoting produce from the four counties of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Powys.

Inside, a team of bakers, butchers, dairy workers and professional chefs can be watched through plate glass windows as they prepare an array of own-label products, from succulent organic meats reared on the Earl of Plymouth Estate to freshly baked bread, pies, cakes and desserts, ice cream, preserves and a tempting selection of delicatessen items.

The concept was conceived in 2001 by the Earl of Plymouth Estates Limited as a market place for its tenant farmers, the retail centre is 4000 sq ft in size. Preparations are also underway to open its own Conservatory Barn Tea Room in an adjacent, newly renovated former outbuilding.

This ambitious diversification project was last year awarded grant funding by The Rural Regeneration Zone, part of Advantage West Midlands, for its role in helping to develop the local economy and Ludlow's reputation as the nation's rural food capital.

Peter Pawsey, Chair of the Rural Regeneration Zone said: "Ludlow is already world-renowned for its associations with food and drink. The food centre is set to be another jewel in its crown and will play an important role in ensuring that local produce and the way it is produced is given the highest possible profile."

Managing Director Sandy Boyd is the man responsible for spear-heading this new breed of farm shop. Having previously launched the hugely successful Chatsworth House farm shop and worked for several years with the National Trust, he is a highly experienced retailer.

He said: "In order for the Estate and other farm food enterprises to survive, this type of connection between producers and consumers is essential and should be embraced.

"Teaching people about food provenance and animal welfare is an important part of the process, and if people can be persuaded to buy more locally grown, seasonal foods, we can cut down on emissions and make a combined active contribution towards the sustainability of our environment."