Simon Raine is the MD and Cheesemeaker at Weardale Cheese. Based in the unique setting of an old Prisoner of War camp hut at Harperley, Simon hand-makes a range of hard and semi-soft, white, blue and smoked cheeses, which he sells across the north east to farm shops, deli’s, pubs, restaurants and at food fairs and festivals. Graduating from Newcastle University with a BA (Hons) in Economics and Economic History, Simon’s career began in the dairy division of Northern Foods. Before establishing Weardale Cheese in 2015, he was MD of a York based distribution company for 15 years. Simon is currently starring in his own one-man show, ‘Confessions of a Cheesemaker’, where scores of W.I. ladies across Co. Durham endure his talk on cheese.
Dr. Liz Charles
Liz is the Project Manager, and works for Durham Community Action. She has worked in rural community development for 20 years and has a lifetime’s interest in sustainable agriculture, food policy and the environment. She studied Rural Environment Studies at Wye College, London University in the 1970s and returned to academia more recently to gain an MSc in Rural Development and Countryside Management at Newcastle University, which led her to continue her action research into Community Supported Agriculture for a PhD in 2012.
Liz spent three years working on a dairy farm on the Welsh borders and has always grown her own vegetables and fruit; she is now starting a smallholding with her partner. Liz also enjoys cycling and playing music.
Mel has had a long time interest in local and natural foods. Her involvement with the food project developed when she was working for Durham County Council as the Strategic Manager for Healthier Communities. She joined the Steering Group for the Sustainable Local Food Strategy project and became a very active and enthusiastic member. Her previous experience was in the area of social care and she now works as a manager for the United Reformed Church. She brings a wealth of skills and experience to the Board including people and project management, analysis and writing skills. Her garden is full of raised beds growing vegetables and fruit.
PROJECT OFFICER, OASES
Amy studied County Durham’s local food system for a Masters by research in Anthropology, Durham University (2009-2011). Her time researching local food activism led her to establish Fruitful Durham, a social enterprise which gleans local surplus fruit, grows fruit trees and shares skills about fruit production and cooking. Amy is a coordinator of Durham Local Food, a grassroots news sharing network and she is an administrator for an online County Durham local food directory. She has also carried out research on school milk schemes, has taught a course on food writing skills and has conducted food democracy workshops. Amy is one of the founders of Durham Food Cooperative which buys ethical and local foods for its members.
ACTING DIRECTOR OF CATERING, DURHAM UNIVERSITY
Paul is Acting Director of Catering for Durham University. He has worked as Deputy Director of Catering (Retail) for the past eight years, with responsibility for creating and implementing the strategic plan for all retail catering services. Working with colleagues Paul has ensured the department makes a positive contribution to the student experience, whilst maintaining financial sustainability. Paul continues to support the catering services at Queens Campus, combining retail catering services and college dining for both John Snow College and Stephenson College. Prior to joining the University Paul gained extensive experience working with Starbucks Coffee Company. Paul’s roles ranged from New Store Opening Specialist within the Republic of Ireland to District Manager within the North East and Cumbria. As District Manager Paul was responsible for achieving operational excellence across nine high volume stores with an annual turnover of £11 million.
WYNYARD SOLUTIONS LIMITED
Louise Wilson represents the Food for Life Partnership – a network of schools and communities across England committed to transforming food culture. The network aims to reach out through schools to give communities access to seasonal, local and organic food, and to the skills they need to cook and grow fresh food. The Food for Life Partnership uses food as a way to improve the whole school experience – making lunchtimes a positive feature of the day and enriching classroom learning with farm visits and practical cooking and growing. Schools enrolled on the programme are growing their own food; organising trips to farms; sourcing food from local bakers, butchers and farmers; setting up school farmers’ markets; holding community food events; providing cooking and growing clubs for pupils and their families; and serving freshly prepared, locally sourced meals that follow a rigorous Food for Life Catering Mark.’
PUBLIC PROCUREMENT SPECIALIST
Jamie Thomas is a public procurement specialist with particular experience in the policy and practice of social value, sustainable supply chains, and small business engagement. Originally from Scotland, Jamie has lived in County Durham for 14 years. Until 2018 he worked for Durham County Council where he was the lead officer for sustainable procurement and social value, helping to ensure the Council delivered on its commitments to sustainable food procurement, favouring seasonal and local produce and supporting specific initiatives such as Sustainable Fish Cities. Now a civil servant he remains based in Durham and retains a passion for ensuring that the money spent by public bodies with their suppliers not only delivers their immediate business needs, but serves the wider public good.
PROGRAMME CO-ORDINATOR, GROUNDWORK NE & CUMBRIA
Grace is a Programme Coordinator at Groundwork North East & Cumbria, where she has worked since 2006. Throughout her time at Groundwork, Grace has engaged community members and partners in a wide range of environmental regeneration projects and activity programmes. She is particularly interested in developing ways in which people can maximise the use of their local environment in order to improve their health and wellbeing. Grace grew up on a hill farm in Teesdale which is where a deep rooted love of the environment began, and she is passionate about supporting local producers to ensure that small businesses such as her family’s farm have the opportunity to prosper into the future.
Lucy’s background has seen her working across different sectors: in the arts (film, theatre and comedy), adventure travel and more recently retail and welfare to work. She has worked mainly at a senior operational level and also in a support capacity. Lucy was an Expedition Leader and travelled widely leading trekking and biking trips, progressing to a Senior Operations Manager at Exodus Travels. She was an Area Manager and interim Director with Starbucks Coffee Company and then moved to A4e helping small business units grow and develop for over eight years. This experience enabled her to move into a support function as Transformation Director at A4e. Lucy now runs her own consultancy, ThinkCap Coaching, part-time and is also an Associate of Recruit and Retain which offers a selection of tools, workshops and programmes to help hire and develop the right people. Lucy brings to Food Durham a strong environmental interest in transforming the way we farm, eat and care for the natural world.
NFU NORTHUMBERLAND AND NORTH DURHAM COUNTY ADVISOR