By Dominic Jeff
Newquay Voice - 17th January 2007
Diners at a Newquay beach cafe will face a clear choice when one of Britain's top climatologists tells them to eat local produce or risk climate chaos.
Dr Stephan Harrison of Exeter University, who has appeared on a BBC series about climate change, will deliver a lecture at the Windswept Cafe on South Fistral Beach, and at an accompanying dinner his audience will choose between a menu sourced entirely in Cornwall and one that pays no regard to seasonality or origin.
Dr Harrison believes current climate models are inaccurate, and we may in fact be faced with much more dramatic shifts in weather patterns than scientists have so far predicted.
Carbon emissions from food miles, the distance produce has to travel from its source to our tables, are a serious contributor to global warming, so perhaps the foodies sat by the rising sea will find the menu an easy one to choose from.
The cafe's proprietor, Ruth Macpherson, said the food miles for each menu will be calculated and displayed.
"You will be looking at hundreds of miles against thousands of miles," she said.
Mandy Milano, director of J&M Sustainable Develops Ltd, who helped organise the event, said, "We are really lucky to have Stephan, it is a fascinating insight into a really important science.
"I just think we need to understand what we are doing and the consequences - then it's up to all of us what we do about it," she added. "It is fantastic to have the Windswept Cafe as a venue, you can enjoy really good food, relax, chat with friends and hear from Stephan."
If, following the talk, newly conscientious gourmets don't fancy having their breakfast flown in from China, they can pop over to Trevilley Farm Shop at Lane, which is participating in Farmhouse Breakfast Week from January 22 to 27, to encourage people to make time for what some call "the most important meal of the day."
All their food is sourced from within Cornwall, and some of the breakfast products, such as the granola, are produced entirely on the premises.
Errol Warman of Trevilley Farm said people are choosing to buy local for a number of reasons.
"People in Cornwall are especially proud of their local produce, and like to support their local economy," he said. Environmental reasons are another factor.
Food producers across the county are now being urged to tap into the local market by bidding for the contract to supply Cornwall's schools and council establishments over the next three years.
Andy Berr, Regional Public Procurement Manager for South-West Food and Drink, will be hosting a workshop entitled "How to tender for a public-sector contract" on Thursday 1st February at the Lakeview Country Club in Cornwall with guest speakers who will demystify the tendering process.
"We are trying to promote sustainable produce which is good for the environment and good for the community," he says.
"Reducing food miles is very important, and if we can get local produce into schools perhaps the children can connect with the product and even visit the farms it comes from. And the money would stay in the South West building a healthy community," he added.
Ruth Macpherson already serves mostly fresh local produce at the Windswept cafe. She says prices can be slightly higher but many people still choose to support local food.
"I think there's a point to which people are happy to do it. But if more people bought locally it would be more economically viable to do so," she said.
Some final food for thought: it takes four kilos of carbon dioxide to put one mango on a supermarket shelf. Of course, you can't buy Cornish mangoes, but there is plenty of good local food out there to choose from.