Fresh produce without breaking your budget – #manxmarch2022

The island has plenty to offer in fresh produce – and you don’t have to break the budget…

That’s the message from #manxmarch2022. And, while that is focussed on this week in particular (Monday-Sunday), the advantages of fewer food miles and a clear provenance apply always.

The aim of #manxmarch, which is backed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Agriculture, is to encourage people to buy and eat as much Manx produce as possible.

Ruth and Stuart Meade, of Red Mie farm in BallaugBulh, are two of the driving forces behind #manxmarch. It was first planned and launched two years ago, just before the first lockdown and if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of food security.

Ruth said: ‘The launch wasn’t anything to do with lockdown, strictly. It coincided with it but we had planned it prior to that.

‘I was talking with a friend when Veganuary came up and we both agreed that we should really be focussing on local sustainable practices, and came up between us with the idea of doing #manxmarch. I mentioned it to Stuart, who thought it was a great idea and we have run with it ever since.’

Stuart said: ‘We put up a post on our farm page about how we were going to try to eat only Manx food in March. The post literally took off and loads of people started sharing and commenting and saying what a good idea it was.

‘So, we set up a group and it snowballed from there.’

The pandemic focussed minds, said Ruth. ‘Suddenly everybody started thinking about food security and buying local, and people had more time on their hands to make their discoveries about what was out there.’

What they have found through #manxmarch is that people are giving more thought to the impact their purchases can have, in terms of food miles, any chemicals that may be used in the preparation and animal welfare.

‘On the island, I think ethical and sustainable practices are as good as you would find anywhere,’ said Stuart.

The first #manxmarch and lockdown saw a ‘really good’ conversation about why a lot of the fish caught did not stay in the island, he said. The appetite for local fish became evident and a gap in the market spotted.

Ruth and Stuart supply a number of restaurants and food outlets, which are keen to make the most of what is available locally.

‘Everybody is incredibly supportive,’ said Ruth. ‘If we cannot supply something, then we will mention other producers, and they do the same. ‘When everybody comes together, it is always better.’

In just two years, #manxmarch has amassed more than 3,800 followers on its Facebook page, which is chock-full of recipe ideas and information sharing about local produce.

Producers are keen to work with retailers to help promote Manx food and drink and also give the customers more information about the journey from farm to shelf.

And there’s always some surprise at the wide range of local produce on offer locally from a wide range of farmers, fisherman, butchers, producers, suppliers and retailers.

This year’s theme is ‘local on a budget’ and there are plenty of tips on the Facebook page.

‘We’re very aware of the restrictions of cost,’ said Ruth. ‘Things like seasonality when buying produce can help with that. Even buying a big sack of potatoes, from a farm, if you have somewhere to store them.’

Stuart said: ‘If you have got staples in the cupboard, canned tomatoes, a bag of spuds and few herbs and spices, it basically means that just by adding tiny elements it is quite amazing what you can make and how little you have to spend.’

#manxmarch fits alongside a raft of DEFA measures and initiatives to promote local produce, ranging from the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival, provenance labelling and an interactive directory of producers. Visit iomfoodanddrink.com to find out more.