Gower Grown Winter Project

Gower Field to Fork

The “Gower Grown Local Veg” pilot project, a collaborative initiative between Castell Howell Foods (CHF), local vegetable growers, Bwyd Abertawe and 4theRegion.

The project aims to support vegetable growers in the Swansea area by establishing links with distributor, Castell Howell, and by engaging more people and businesses in awareness raising around the importance of local sourcing.

Pre-orders for locally grown produce will be placed to benefit the Everyone Deserves a Christmas campaign and potentially promote a “locally grown Christmas” initiative for local hospitality businesses.

The project involves the following key components:

Collaboration: The collaboration brings together Castell Howell, Bwyd Abertawe (a group of local vegetable growers), and 4theRegion (a regional development organization).

Support for Growers: The project aims to support local vegetable growers by providing them with a distribution channel through Castell Howell Foods. This collaboration would give growers access to a wider market for their produce. This effort aligns with the goal of supporting local economies and reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.

Local Hospitality Initiative: The project also proposes the promotion of a “locally grown Christmas” campaign targeted at local hospitality businesses. Encouraging these businesses to source their ingredients locally can lead to positive economic and environmental impacts.

About the Project

We convened a roundtable discussion with partners in the local hospitality and agriculture industries to discuss ways to support local producers and address the challenges they face in the Swansea Bay area. Following the success of the Food to Fork project, Castell Howell and partners are looking to find out how we can apply learnings from that project to commercial kitchens and hospitality.

Supporting Local Producers: Lucy Hole emphasised Secret Hospitality’s commitment to support local producers across Swansea Bay, highlighting their collaboration with Castell Howell. However, they acknowledged that the volume of produce this year has presented challenges, preventing them from fully supporting local producers.

Richard Bond from the Food & Drink Wales project, brought a broader perspective to the discussion. The Food & Drink Wales project is responsible for promoting Welsh food and drink in Wales, the UK and internationally. Their vision is to create a strong and vibrant Welsh food and drink sector with a global reputation for excellence, having one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world.

Ian Chriswick from Gower College shared insights from the GCS Green Hwb project. The Green Hwb project delivers qualifications in horticulture. Produce from the project will be used to go to local causes, with the first crop of the year supporting projects such as the Phoenix Centre and The Nelson Trust. This project demonstrates the potential of food production as a means of support for local initiatives.

Sarah Gould, of Lantra (who run the Farming Connect project) added to the discussion with her industry expertise. The Farming Connect project supports Welsh farmers with business support and training. Andrew Stevens, a livestock farmer and the Champion for Rural Economy at Swansea Council, shared insights from a farming perspective.

Challenges and Obstacles: Ed Morgan from Castell Howell led a discussion on the challenges faced by local producers and the wider food industry. He emphasised the globalisation of the food supply chain in recent decades, leaving communities vulnerable to supply disruptions. Food security has become a concern, particularly in light of recent environmental factors impacting food production and supply chains.

Ed highlighted the need for a template or framework for engaging with growers and supporting them financially and operationally. The challenge, as identified, includes the timing of produce availability, weather disruptions, and land acquisition by renewable energy industries.

The group discussed various strategies to address these obstacles, including:

Engaging with Growers: Collaboratively engaging with growers to understand their capacity and requirements, and committing to support on factors like seed costs, staff expenses and machinery.

Educational Engagement: Focusing on the educational sector by working with schools and colleges to bridge the gap and introduce young people to farming. Exploring the potential link between education and the industry to support catering students and foster a stronger connection between educational institutions, restaurants and local producers.

Competing with Global Markets: Developing strategies to compete with growers in England and abroad by focusing on quality, value, and experience. 

Logistics and Distribution: Recognising the importance of logistics and distribution for small growers, and exploring partnerships with distributors like Castell Howell.

The meeting concluded with a recognition of the complex challenges facing local producers in Swansea Bay. However, there was an optimistic outlook on the potential for collaboration and support from various sectors to overcome these challenges. The group committed to further discussions and action plans to enhance the support for local producers and strengthen the regional food supply chain.

We recognise the need for ongoing discussions to develop concrete strategies, action plans, and partnerships that will contribute to the sustainability and growth of our local agricultural community.

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