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Moretonhampstead food festival celebrates a rich heritage with a timely message

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 15, 2013

Alastair Wimberley dressed as a drover for the food festival launch with Sharon Midfields of Midfield Granola and festival organiser Fiona Gofton, right PICTURE: STEVEN HAYWOOD

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The Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead gets together once a year to stage a food festival which celebrates the local producers and farmers, as well as the businesses in this vibrant community.

Although last year's event attracted a modest 6,000 visitors, a launch for this year's festival underlines why this kind of shop window for local producers is vital.

"Food festivals like ours in Moretonhampstead encourage shoppers to buy local, to source meat bought directly from the farmer and producer," said Alastair Wimberley, who farms welfare-friendly Red Ruby beef a mile from the town and is one of the festival's organisers.

"Meat products such as pies, pates and sausages are made responsibly from meat bought from a reliable local source where its origins are known.

"As a farmer and a butcher I am horrified by the behaviour of processed food producers in purchasing horse meat as a beef substitute and the distance it had travelled."

Mr Wimberley also criticised supermarkets for encouraging the sale of ready-made meals, hoping that consumers would now turn away from that kind of product.

One of four main organisers of the festival, which is aided by over 60 volunteers, Mr Wimberley said the event was important in helping to educate the public about the provenance of food and the value of quality.

"Our food producers tend to be ethically responsible people on a mission to make the best product they can," he said.

"With our cooking demos we hope to inspire people to go home with local produce and cook themselves a delicious healthy meal."

This year's food festival, on Saturday, March 9, will reflect the area's food heritage.

Drovers would herd thousands of Ruby Reds and other cattle to moorland grazing in summer – known as the "red tide".

At the height of this trade, there were 32 ale houses in Moretonhampstead and the local serving ladies who kept them in check were renowned for their Amazonian attributes, according to local legend.

The food festival will have cookery demonstrations, a market, bread-baking workshops, a cookery trail, kitchen jumble and a local artists trail. There's also a festival drover's pie, made with Alastair Wimberley's beef and ale from Hunter's Brewery in Ipplepen, lovingly cooked by Matthew King, head chef at Moretonhampstead's White Hart Hotel.

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