Things the Northern Irish do better – Local food.


Hopefully never to become a Tesco’s express

Walking around the shop with my partner Pete I am confused. The usual products I grab from the supermarket shelves are rejected by him and in their place he loads the trolley with brands I have never heard of. Dale Farm yoghurts, Tayto crisps, a whole world of wheaten bread and tray bakes, all of which appear to be produced by local farms and business’s.

We are in Northern Ireland, a country effectively isolated from the ravages of big business by the ‘troubles.’ A country at war with itself presumably does not attract investment but neither, it seems, does it attract Tesco.

This latter absence can only be positive. Instead of Tesco and it’s brethren dominating every high street and out pricing the local butchers, bakers and greengrocers, Northern Irish High Streets are full of the local. Shops where the food is created by the neighbours, livestock is slaughtered close to farms, not shipped around the country in viscous, freight trucks, people have time to stop and talk.

The food Pete picks is delicious, full of flavour and character and people relish their local produce but I fear for it. Fear that as things settle down a little in this country the march of homogeneity will begin.

Outside, on the edges of larger towns, big business circles ready to pounce, Harry Ramsdens, KFC and of course Tesco. Outside town it is 2017, in town it is still 1960. Unless the Northern Irish learn from England’s mistakes their quirky and healthy and local will go the way of our own, only available to those who can afford high prices and ‘gourmet’ food halls. Their farmers, like ours, will be made slaves to the supermarket giants and their price controls.

I want to shake the people with their trolleys of soda farls and say ‘please keep valuing it. Resist the twinkle and free parking of out of town malls. See what the troubles have bought you. Sanctuary. A chance to do right what we got so wrong.’


2 thoughts on “Things the Northern Irish do better – Local food.

  1. What a nice article highlighting the plight of villages and what they face with out of town and big brother type bullying by big businesses.

    In an ideal world we would all have a mix of local shops like the days of old but sadly change has done it’s thing and human behaviour dictates what happens in the world.

    I can remember when we moved to where we live we had a butcher and a greengrocers. Both sadly closed. We are to blame as a community/nation as we all go to supermarkets for their convenient opening hours, availability of all the produce we need and so called cheapness, which we know is crap as they brow beat the suppliers into submission to have the nerve to charge such low prices.

    Recently on holiday in Suffolk I had the pleasure of buying some Raw Milk directly from the farm where the cows were watching me at the gate whilst I used the milk vending machine. You could not get any less food mild than this. Well done Fen Farm. Your an example of good business. The milk incidentally was fantastic as raw milk is, and im going to do mail order for more.

    But here Is where it can cause problems as it costs more as many local products from local small shops can do. In this example for the cost of 2 litres I could get double the amount of milk from a supermarket but of an inferior quality. But for people on low incomes the option of buying the raw milk directly from a local supplier ( as this cannot be sold in shops for reasons that are wrong in my view) could be cost prohibitive. I’m not flush with money but I know that morally Fen Farm are the right business to use but as long as I can afford too.

    Politicians (there I have sworn) need to look at local community shops and villages, reduce business rates or introduce protected status for shops/ local growers etc and ensure that big business pay a true cost to the community for out of town supermarkets etc. As for Amazon et al I’m not going there but we have all used them haven’t we, should we feel shame for doing so ?

    How many times have people brought a kindle book online rather than buy a real book from a local bookstore. I know I have but I try not to. How many times have people done online food shopping for the simple reason that they can and don’t want to go to the shops ? Not me thankfully.

    We are all guilty to some degree for the demise of the “local community shops” but we can change our habits if we try that little bit harder and start to do our bit for local foods, local shops and local community. Change is a constant, be part of it but for the better.

  2. Thanks Richard, for your well thought out comments. I agree that good quality food is a luxury in this country and many people shop at Lidl for good reason but in Northern Ireland it was the norm, available to all. Whatever they’re getting right, I hope they continue doing it.

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