As someone from Lancashire along with a family history deep rooted in the heart of the Ribble Valley, attending Taste Lancashire - a gathering to talk all things food related - was an absolute privilege.
There are two reasons why I love Lancashire.
One is the people.
The second is, of course, the food.
Having travelled to many other exotic and exciting parts of the world, I’m back living in Clitheroe and more in love with my home county than ever.
Yes, that might sound extremely sentimental but as they say, home is definitely where the heart is.
Attending the Taste Lancashire 2017 conference (September 6), I sat in the crowd of people – many born and bred Lancastrians and just as many from various parts of not just the country, but from around the world – and I felt proud.
The whole point of the get together was to discuss various ways to really put Lancashire and its producers on the map.
Being a food blogger with a sincere passion for produce and traditional foods, I was sure I knew everything there was to know about who produced what, and my love for “local” was almost what I built my entire blogging story on.
That was until key speaker, top TV personality and food critic, Jay Rayner, burst my little Lancs bubble.
“My hated word of the moment is local”.
Cue shortness of breath and sweaty palms on my behalf.
Here was someone who I admired in terms of his food expertise, standing in front of me practically sending my whole blogging career so far up in flames (or so it felt).
But then he went on to explain his theory on the overuse of the word and I admit, it made sense.
We are very quick to assume that because something is described as local, it is OK to eat.
What if, he stated, the eggs you are eating, although described as ‘local from down the road’ are actually from an intensive chicken farm?
The term only really applies in this context:
Use local when best.
He was also adamant that producers should push their stories, which struck a chord with me.
Working here, at Farmers Guardian, my passion is for people and their journeys, and there isn’t anything I enjoy more than hearing how someone has taken an idea, sometimes because they want to and sometimes because they need to survive, and made it work.
For farmers or businesses looking to diversify, Mr Rayner believes it to be imperative to “work out what your story is” to make it more attractive.
Something else that we as a country and not just Lancashire need to do, is make the food chain more accessible to the everyday person.
We all eat food but it is surprising how little people know about their produce and how it gets produced, even when just talking to my own circle of friends.
Ruth Mason, Chief Food Chain Advisor for the NFU, said when it comes to food production, “we need to get much, much better as an agricultural industry about being able to tell that story and be open about it.
“I think that’s where the Europeans have got it right.
“If you go to Italy and look at pig production, they have huge production farms over there but they’re not scared of that. That’s part of normal life.
“Customers accept that and understand that’s part of food production.”
And it’s true. We have beomce a society that refuses to acknoweldge things.
Meat comes from animals - it always has done and this is our chance to re-evaluate our approach to food.
So, for me, looking at the provenance of what I choose to buy has become even more important.
In a culture where consumers have claimed yes, they would prefer to buy British, but ease of cooking and shopping is also high on their priorities list, producers who want to champion the true meaning of local must, as Mr Rayner said, really work out who they are.
It was a great experience to be in a room with so many people who were passionate about food and it felt good to talk about Lancashire, a place that’s been home to my family – and a farming family at that – for many years.
So, the take home message.
Wherever you come from and whatever you’re producing, be proud of it.
Because being proud, as I found out that day, is quite catching.