THE Somerset Food Trail Festival on July 15-24 is an 'open farm’ and farm-to-fork showcase that puts the spotlight on Somerset's smaller-scale, nature-friendly farmers and artisan producers in all their fascinating diversity, giving visitors a better understanding of where food comes from and the many benefits of buying local.

From biodynamic vineyards to community-funded food forests; small batch, organic cheesemaking to rare breed pigs, apple orchards, aquaponics, and cider making; buffalo mozzarella to milk-based vodka; the 10-day event offers a wealth of foodie experiences – and some cultural ones as well.

Live performance and art will complement talks, tastings, and tours in multiple destinations across the county.

The festival offers visitors a rare ‘behind-the-scenes’ access to the farms, landscapes, people and places that produce Somerset’s best, most flavourful food.

Stewart Crocker, chair of the Food Trail's organising committee, says the event aims to give visitors a better understanding of where food comes from, and the benefits of supporting more regenerative and climate-friendly approaches to farming.

He said: "There's a growing interest in healthier, more environmentally-friendly food. Buying local, sustainably-grown food supports the producers, the local economy, and the environment.

“It’s good for our health, good for the soil and the climate – and food that hasn’t travelled hundreds of miles just tastes a whole lot better!"

As well as helping people access the fantastic food producers on their doorstep, the Food Trail also has a serious purpose.

Crocker also added: "Food and farming have been a vital part of the life of Somerset for generations.

“Yet our food and farming system is under pressure as never before and diet-related health problems, such as type two diabetes and obesity, are on the rise.

"The Government's own National Food Strategy says our food system has become an ecological disaster. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with just 53 per cent of our biodiversity left.

“The great news is that we can all help bring about a shift to more nature-friendly farming through our everyday food choices."

Somerset County Gazette: The Valley Smokehouse and Kitchen StoreThe Valley Smokehouse and Kitchen Store

The Food Trail had a soft launch in 2018 with more than 30 eateries, producers, and farmers opening their doors to the public. Sadly, plans to hold the Trail in 2020 and 2021 had to be cancelled due to Covid.

This year, with a revamped website launching soon and an interactive map, the Trail expects to feature over 100 venues, with funding from Mendip District Council and a number of town councils and supported by a network of around 30 volunteer coordinators.

Julie Reader-Sullivan, head of planning and growth services at Mendip District Council, which is supporting the Trail with a Tourism Grant, said the initiative will help create a unique tourism offering for both locals and visitors to enjoy:

“The Somerset Food Trail is such an important part of Somerset’s culture, which celebrates local food and drink businesses and the fantastic work they are doing to deliver sustainable, quality produce.

“With the increasing interest in food provenance, an appreciation for locally-sourced food, the need to reduce food miles, and desire to experience local culture, we have no doubt the Trail will attract many tourists to the area and support Mendip businesses.”

Rob Walrond, who runs an organic farm at Pitney, will be on the Trail this year as he was in 2018.

He said: "One of the ways we can make the biggest difference to our health and the environment is to value food more highly… and learn about it.

“The Food Trail is a great way for people to understand more about how our food is produced and to learn about the growing movement of farming in harmony with nature."

For more information visit the food festival website here.