Press Release 8th November 2011
Over 180 people attended a major Cumbrian Conference at Rheged on Friday 4th November for people concerned about and involved in farming, food and wool production and the rural economy.
The Conference, entitled CUMBRIA LOCAL AND FAIR, was organised by members of Cumbria Fair Trade Network, working in partnership with representatives of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, Cumbria County Council, Cumbrian NFUs, Cumbria Rural Churches, Cumbria Rural Enterprise Agency, Fairtrade Foundation and Lake District National Park Authority.
The Conference received its funding from The Coop, Riverside, Lake District National Park Authority, Leader+ and Cumbria Fair Trade Network. It was advised and supported by Cumbria Fells and Dales, which is the Local Action Group delivering Rural Development Programme for England, The Farmer Network and many others.
The aim of the Conference was to explore how elements of the Fairtrade system and the Fairtrade movement could have relevance for farmers and producers in Cumbria.
‘We were delighted by the numbers who attended,’ said Joe Human, Chair of the Conference Steering Committee, ‘but more importantly we were very pleased that there was so much enthusiasm and energy and so many great ideas for action coming out if it. Our task now is to harness all three to make the changes identified.’
The Conference was chaired by Julia Aglionby, who is well known in the Cumbrian farming world for her work with commoners. Speakers included Prof Frank Peck and Dr Lois Mansfield of the University of Cumbria; Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation; Eden Valley dairy farmer and Chair of the Cumbrian NFUs, Robert Craig, and Stephen Best, Windward Islands banana farmer who sells his crop into the Fairtrade market.
In early October Robert Craig spent time with Stephen Best in St Lucia, and a few days before the Conference Stephen and his wife, Joyce, spent a few days with Robert, Jackie, his wife, and their children on their farm at Ainstable.
‘Robert and Stephen have more in common than you might have expected,’ said Joe Human, ‘since bananas and milk are both subject to supermarket “price wars”, often being sold as “loss leaders”.’
Speaking of this at the Conference Stephen remarked that he finds it quite insulting that the crops of his fields and his hard labour should be treated in this way.
All sectors of Cumbrian society were represented at the Conference, including leading representatives from farming, local government, retailing, and food production, as well as MPs Jamie Reed, Rory Stewart and Tim Farron, together with European MEP Sajjad Karim. Representing the County Council were Vice-Chair, Cllr Norman Clarkson and Cllr Oliver Pearson, Cabinet Member for Communities.
Following the conference members of Keswick and District Fair Trade Campaign organised an evening event at Rheged for Cumbrian Fairtrade campaigners to hear more from Robert Craig and Stephen Best about their shared experiences.
Stephen and Joyce Best are now staying in Keswick and visiting schools, supermarkets and farms in Cumbria and Lancashire before they return to St Lucia later in the month
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Image caption: Stephen Best from the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association (WINFA) addressing Cumbria Local and Fair at Rheged on Friday. Credit: George Carrick