LOCAL food champions from across Britain will gather in Newcastle next week to discover how to help hard-pressed consumers.

The 29th National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) conference at the Marriott Hotel in Gosforth Park opens on Monday.

And delegates attending the three-day event will hear from enthusiasts such as John Craven of the BBC’s Countryfile how they should be publicising good deals from farm shops, markets, pick-your-own and box schemes.

Rita Exner, FARMA secretary, said: “We have known for a long time that some foods are cheaper from farm shops as you are buying from source rather than going through a middle man, and that they are a better product.

“Yes, you can go to any number of places and get really cheap food, but we are talking about quality that will tempt your tastebuds.”

Exhibitors, including luxury fruit cake maker Jenkins & Hustwit from County Durham, and Northumberland-based producers Carrolls Heritage Potatoes, Borderfields rapeseed oil and Gilchesters Organics, will also take part in a trade show on November 11.

Meanwhile, former top cricket umpire Dickie Bird came to the North East to sample award-winning banger Cragside Cracker.

Morris Adamson, from Rothbury Family Butchers, was declared regional winner of British Sausage Week 2008.

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