Make it affordable for this year’s Manx March

Next Monday marks the start of #manxmarch2022, the week where we are challenged to eat only fresh, sustainable and, above all, locally produced food.

When Stuart and Ruth Meade launched Manx March in 2020, it coincided with the start of the first lockdown. What could have stopped the initiative in its tracks actually became a moment that made everyone realize how important it is to support the island’s food industry. Empty supermarket shelves saw people scavenge for local suppliers, and those in need of home deliveries when Tesco slots became unavailable turned to local businesses to drop off their essential groceries.

The Isle of Man Government has always understood the value of our food sector to the local economy, but has now added food security to its lists of goals in its recently released Our Island Plan.

Ruth agrees that food security is a “massive” problem. She says: ‘I think that’s the main thing for me personally, not just the food being made on the Isle of Man, but checking that the ingredients are grown on the Isle of Man, otherwise you’re still relying on imports and it makes you more vulnerable. ‘

With prices rising in many areas, Manx March in 2022 is themed around affordability.

Ruth Meade said: “This year we are emphasizing doing it on a budget because we know a lot of people are under financial pressure right now. There are some fantastic Manx products out there, but people think they can’t afford them. We are therefore asking for help from our Manx Marchers on our Facebook page #manxmarch2022.

Choosing this particular week in March to eat fresh and local, when there isn’t a huge amount of choice, was deliberate on Stuart and Ruth’s part.

Their feeling was that if we can do it this week, we can definitely do it during the summer weeks when the shelves are full of local produce.

Ruth and Stuart are based at Red Mie Farm, Ballaugh, they grow or produce almost everything they need to live, with Loaghtan sheep, a large flock of hens and a polytunnel where they have grown all the chillies for the Hot Chilli Eating contest during last year’s Food & Drink Festival.

Ruth says the polytunnel is now restarting for this year: with 20 more varieties of peppers, all grown from seed, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants.

Outside they grow cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, parsnips and onions.

Ruth says: “We have a small number of subscribers to our vegetable boxes, but we will overproduce so that we can still supply other customers on a timely basis. We also provide Loaghtan eggs and meat.

Ruth also organizes poultry farming courses and can provide laying hens for anyone wishing to enjoy their own freshly laid chicken eggs.

Ruth says: “This year we are focusing on everyday meals on a budget and we will see how far we can stretch our Manx pound, as many people have had incredibly difficult years. We are going to take a tour and share our discoveries.

As always, cooking from scratch will save money and it’s not always easy.

Ruth says, “We understand that there are time constraints for people, so hopefully we can highlight how to make it a little more efficient.”

A user recently posted on the page saying, “I would love to join #manxmarch but looking at the prices here I’m not sure how I’m going to feed a family of four on a budget. Will anyone Has anyone done this before, can I have some advice please?

The #manxmarcher 2022 Facebook page has nearly 4,000 members and they have been flocking to offer ideas and suggestions.

Annabel Flo Gentry, who operates Flo the Coffee Van, said: ‘I’m doing well using St Mark’s Honesty Farm shop and making great soups and stews. I tend not to buy meat or fish at every meal.

“The bouillon cubes and the odd flavored shaker (like a peri peri or an Italian) are the biggest expense. Carrots, leeks and onions are winners like any starter soup. Then any red lentils or yellow split peas to thicken.

“Baked potatoes with any toppings – cheese beans are also winners here. And a big bag of potatoes will last 2-3 months in our house.

Many people, especially those with families, also recommended buying a large bag of potatoes, for jacket, mash, fries, pie fillings and gratins. You can also buy large sacks of Manx potatoes from named farms at Robinson’s in Ballapaddag and the Jurby Farm Shop.

Local free-range eggs are another winner: Coole Girls and Close Leece Farm are available at a number of shops around the island.

The omelettes, two eggs per person, make a reasonably priced meal with whatever toppings you like – how about Manx onions and IOM Creamery mature cheddar? Serve with a bag of Staarvey Farm Organic Salad Leaves, which are now back at Shoprite and Robinson’s, or Winter Coleslaw with local carrots, cabbage and beets, with Staarvey Farm Raspberry Vinegar at instead of mayonnaise.

Poached eggs make a good base for a tasty brunch with Manx bacon and Noa seed bread.

Several people have recommended butchers WE Teare’s in Ramsey and Lee Mayers in Kirk Michael, who both make good value packs of meat.

Lee told us: “We have amazing deals on Manx products with new deals every week and I’m also considering putting together a Manx meat pack to run for Manx March as well.”

Even if you can’t do everything, you can always start somewhere with a few changes. Simply paying more attention to where the food you buy comes from and consciously thinking “Manx” when shopping will make a big difference.

About Lillian Coomer

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