A week of events celebrating food and farming in Eden drew visitors from as far afield as Scotland and Southampton to sample the best that the district has to offer.
The Eden Food and Farming Festival offered food lovers the chance to go behind the scenes with farmers, vegetable growers and restaurateurs at a dozen events around the Eden area.
Anyone interested in growing fruit and vegetables was spoilt for choice at this year’s festival with four visits to growers, including the edible gardens at Askham Hall that supply the award-winning restaurant with vegetables, the Vista Veg polytunnel site at Crosby Ravensworth where produce is grown for their vegetable bag scheme, a private garden, allotment and polytunnel in Glassonby and the Appleby Edibles community polytunnel at Appleby Heritage Centre, where growers share space as well as tips.
Malcolm Carruthers from Penrith was among those who called at Vista Veg to pick up some tips from expert grower Lynn Barnes to boost his own vegetable production.
“I’ve been trying to grow beans this year, but have found that the flowers have been dropping off and I’ve also had problems with my lettuces turning mushy, so I thought I’d come and pick Lynn’s brains!” Malcolm said.
Vista Veg itself has flourished in the past year, with new growers coming on board to increase production. The cooperative now also offers lamb and eggs to scheme members.
“We’re always keen for people to come and see what we do and the festival is a great way to keep producers at the forefront of the local community,” Lynn said.
Opportunities to try Eden’s award-winning produce proved tempting during the week, with sell-out crowds enjoying the tastiest of tours around the Cranstons Cumbrian Food Hall and a pop-up restaurant event at Maulds Meaburn Village Institute.
Graham Pearce from Southampton came to the Cranstons tour and the launch of the new community wines at High Cup Winery, along with his parents and son.
“We discovered the festival while we were on holiday in Eden last year and we were delighted that it was on this summer again,” Graham said. “It’s been a brilliant part of our holiday!”
At Cranstons, managing director Philip Cranston gave an entertaining and engaging insight into the company’s journey from its roots in Kirkoswald in 1914 to an award-winning firm producing 200 different products, from sausages and bacon to pies, sold at their six Cranstons shops with 20,000 transactions a week.
Butchery manager Rob McManus demonstrated how to prepare lamb, pork and chicken, passing on his tips for cuts of meat to try, while sharing his experience of changing trends at the butchery counter, with new cuts for the barbeque on the up and big family roasts on the wane.
The group were then taken on a guided tour of the Food Hall, trying everything from fruit, sausages and oils to wine and cakes along the way.
A guided walk at the Deer n Dexter farm at Penruddock and an artful demonstration of sheepdog handling by trainer and breeder Katy Cropper brought out different aspects of farming in Eden, attracting young and old festival-goers keen to learn more about one of the area’s most important industries. Eden’s food historian Ivan Day captivated an audience at Lowther Castle with his tales of vittles in times of yore, and there was more family fun on offer at the Rheged Summer Fete and the ever-popular Penrith Show, which rounded off festival week with an extra helping of food and farming activities.
“In addition to our main course, Penrith on a Plate, we offered more events than ever before and it was great to see some of them being booked out well in advance,” said Peter Ward, chair of Penrith Partnership, which has led the organisation of the festival. “This year, we worked in partnership with the Penrith and Eden District Freegle group and Penrith Action for Community Transition (PACT) to expand the opportunities for people to meet local growers and we’re grateful to them for bringing some of the Freegle Visiting Edible Gardens (VEG) events into festival week.”
The VEG series continues throughout the summer, with full details at www.penrithact.org.uk/veg.
“We’re very grateful to all the organisations and individuals who hosted the events for us, and I’d also like to say a final word of thanks to our main festival funders: Eden District Council, Penrith Business Improvement District and Pride in Penrith Lottery, along with Discover Penrith.”