‘There are no big companies or businesses here to take up lots of space,’ says Will Steward, who runs Living Larder, which delivers boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables around the Island. ‘That creates opportunities for local and smaller operators. If you’re from the Island or have lived here for a long time then you feel an obligation to make it a better place. I think that is why there are so many local food producers.’
The seasonal nature of the tourism industry has also shaped the approach to food production, according to Richard Hodgson of The Isle of Wight Cheese Company. ‘For some the tourist season only lasts four months,’ he says. ‘That leaves a lot of time to look at other things and to light the fire in other ways.’ Richard also thinks the absence of major companies encourages ‘a slower pace of life. If we had a big city here then the dynamic would be completely different.’
Localism also happens to be profitable, ‘contrary to the strict laws of modern-day accounting,’ asserts Paul Armfield, musician. ‘You can look at people making local food and crafts see the hours involved and conclude that there is not much profit margin in it,’ he says. ‘But there is a bigger picture – such things create activity and interest and somehow that makes and keeps people busy. The key is localism, getting local people interested. It’s worth persevering.’
Get to know Isle of Wight food producers
Not all the Island food producers have a shop front; instead they often sell at retailers across the Island or you’ll discover their produce on menus in pubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants. Continue reading the Insights section of the Slow Travel Guide to the Isle of Wight where three of the Island’s regarded companies; Living Larder, The Isle of Wight Co and The Tomato Stall share their thoughts about why the Island is so conducive to growing local food.