As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly takes its toll on artisan food and drink in the UK, Mary Quicke MBE has written an open letter to all those in the country who value the rich tapestry of independents that now finds itself under threat. With supermarkets continuing to be the main beneficiaries of panic buying, Mary is calling on shoppers to use the power of their pound to protect the future of food and farming.
Having experienced the devastating impact on artisan cheesemaking first-hand, the Devon-based clothbound cheddar-maker is encouraging people to search for the producers and retailers who are reaching out to consumers online. Mary believes that family meals, care packages and online dinner parties can play a vital role in supporting the small businesses that are so central to the UK’s food and drink identity, before they disappear forever.
Mary Quicke’s open letter:
“Dear friends in food
We’ve been overwhelmed by the drive from all sides to get our cheese to you. I’d like to thank everyone for being committed to us and our cheese.
With supermarket shelves emptying as fast as they can be stacked, it looks to people who love food that all food producers must be doing well. For those speciality, artisan producers like us who sell little or nothing to supermarkets, the current situation is devastating. Many of the restaurants around the world that champion our products are closed. Many deli counters are closed. Our champions are furloughed or laid off. The distributors who drive sales through the food web are struggling. In the urgency to feed the one third of the world’s population that are currently locked down, the small and the artisan is getting left out. We risk losing the whole of the complex ecology of our artisan food system: just in cheese, that’s the amazing diversity of artisan cheesemakers that has developed over the last thirty years.
Many restaurants and small food producers are moving online. Thank you for that, get your piece of joy through the post. It doesn’t replace the volumes that we’ve lost elsewhere. Many businesses are reporting sales of half to one tenth from before the crisis.
What to do? Please, find the great initiatives getting good food online. Cook up great dishes and have an online dinner party. Give a gift of great food to the loved ones you can’t see face to face. Treat yourself and your family to a party night at home, with a rich British cheeseboard. Get to know the cheese mongers, food producers, butchers and chefs reaching out online.
When this is all over, rejoice and get back out to the delis, food service and cheesemongers that support us. Together we can have our delicate food web survive to serve you and our world when this is all done.
Be inspired by your connection to food and farming, the power you have, and the difference you make in the world.