UK Government

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs: Environment Secretary explores local food and skills in South East

Press Release   •   Feb 16, 2010 10:14 GMT

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today took part in a bread making workshop with local brownies and a hedge laying master class with the Tree Council as well as visiting local food producers as part of a visit to the South East.

At Mr Benn's first stop, Winchester City Mill, he helped Brownies from the first Winchester City West pack gain their cookery badge and heard why locally produced sustainable food has such a positive impact for the environment and in supporting rural economies. The National Trust mill was one of eight projects around the country to receive Defra funding through the Greener Living Fund to promote locally-sourced in-season food and community engagement.

Hilary Benn said:

"It is great to see children learning how to make bread, and finding out where the food they eat comes from. It is more important than ever that we encourage people to eat more locally-sourced and seasonal food. In a world of convenience foods to get your hands messy and then to eat the fruits of your labour is educational, refreshing and also very tasty!"

"Our aim is to increase the number of people baking bread, biscuits, cakes and other foods using locally-produced flour which is milled using renewable energy," said the Trust's Chief Miller, Bob Goodwin.

Mr Benn also attended a hedge laying master class at Rooksbury Nature Reserve in Andover with five local tree wardens.  The Secretary of State saw firsthand the importance of hedge trees to encourage and protect natural biodiversity and the vital work the Tree Council carries out to guard against loss of hedgerow trees in the UK. This year the Tree Council is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Tree Warden Scheme.  In that time they have planted more than 6 million trees nationwide.

Mr Benn said:

"Hedgerows are a much loved feature of the British landscape as well as home to all manner of plants and animals. The work that the Tree Council does is absolutely invaluable for preserving our precious countryside and rich biodiversity we cherish. This was a wonderful opportunity to learn the skills the Tree Wardens have been using to great effect for 20 years and to have a go myself."

Pauline Buchanan Black, Director General of the Tree Council said:

"The hedge tree is the most biodiverse part of the hedgerow and our Tree Wardens are doing a fantastic job of reinstating this important part of the landscape; hedgelaying also improves the productivity of hedges so it's great to see the Environment Secretary showing a keen interest in how it's done.

The Tree Council will continue to support Defra through the work of our 8000 volunteer Tree Wardens who spearhead local action on national campaigns as well as tree and biodiversity projects that improve our quality of life in all settings."

The SoS finished his day with a tour of the Mars Confectionary factory in Slough to hear about the reductions they have made in energy use and packaging, and the Premier Foods Research Centre in High Wycombe where studies are carried out into new and existing foods to ensure they meet Food Standards Agency criteria.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

For more information on GLF funding visit: http://www.greenerlivingfund.org.uk

For more information on the Tree Council visit: http://www.treecouncil.org.uk

For photographs or video footage of the visit please contact Rosie Moss on 0207 238 560

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