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Two local farm shops have been shortlisted for a prestigious national award, to be judged later this year.

March House Farm Shop, in Great Dalby, and Gates Garden Centre, in Cold Overton, have been nominated as outstanding farm shops in the Midlands Area, part of a national competition sponsored by The Grocer.

Both businesses have been praised for their reaction to the COVID-19 lockdown, adapting to demand in difficult curcumstances, and proividing food with minimal food miles.

March House Farm has been selling their own beef, lamb and pork for many years, but when the first lockdown landed in late March 2020 they were able to get their shop online in just a few days, attracting upwards of 80 orders per day.

Gates Garden Centre's farm shop is relatively new but has become popular enough in the area for the farm to invest in their own livestock to sell there.

The Farm Shop and Deli Awards champion the best of local food producers, the first stage of which is divided up into regional competitions for categories which include butchers, bakers, delis, farm shops, greengrocers, online stores, and local shops.

Other Leicestershire businesses nominated include Elaine's Fruit and Veg, Bushby (greengrocer), Pie Drop, Melton Mowbray (online business) and Jorge Artisan Foods, The Engine Yard, Belvoir Castle (delicatessen).

This year, the awards received 153 entries, which are now being evaluated by an expert judging panel lead by broadcaster and journalist Nigel Barden, to determine the ‘Commented Retailers’ and ‘Best in Region Winners’ across the UK.

The live announcement will take place at 3pm on Monday, July 5 at the Farm Shop and Deli Show, at the NEC Birmingham from July 5 to 7.

Nigel Barden is joined in the judging process by food writer and co-chair Elaine Lemm, plus editor at British Baker, Amy North; fresh foods reporter at The Grocer, Henry Sandercock; branch manager for Paxton and Whitfield Jermyn Street, London, Hero Hirsh; head of trading and marketing for Booths, John Gill and head of consultancy business Delicious Planet, Victoria Robertshaw. The judges also include previous Retailer of the Year winners.

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