SHOP MANAGER: Jason Clarke of WJ Crouch Butchers in Heathfield
THE PUBLIC votes are in for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards, and Heathfield butcher Jason Clarke has made the final cut.
Mr Clarke, manager of Hailsham Road shop WJ Crouch, will compete against two other candidates across both East And West Sussex for the accolade of Sussex Butcher of the Year.
A worker in the meat trade all his life, Mr Clarke, who lives in Herstmonceux, was delighted to receive such backing from his customers.
"I am chuffed to bits to make the shortlist for Sussex Butcher of the Year. Participating in the awards has given the shop a real buzz over the past few weeks and raised our spirits in the present climate of uncertainty that is affecting the whole community. Our customers have shown immense enthusiasm and I cannot thank them enough for their support."
Mr Clarke has been at the shop since it was taken over by the WJ Crouch chain two years ago, and enjoys the privilege of being the only manager to be able to run his store independently.
He explained this has allowed him to build close ties with a number of local suppliers, and impose his personal touch on the way the shop is run.
"Being in the meat trade all my life I have seen the trade come on through the years and seen some of the things that used to go on, which I do not agree with.
"Our meat is GM, antibiotic and additive free and completely traceable – our commitment to the local abattoir means customers can literally drive up the road and see the field where the lambs and cattle graze."
Mr Clarke is not the Heathfield area's sole representative at the Sussex Food and Drink Awards however. Egypt Farm, in Rushlake Green, is up for two awards – Food Shop of the Year and Farmer of the Year, while in nearby Mayfield, Clayton Farm on Newick Lane, owner Cathy Swingland has also been nominated for Farmer of the Year.
David Turton, who runs Egypt farm with his wife Erica, said: "We are honoured that our customers have nominated us – they are most important to us – allowing us to go on farming sustainably."
The winning finalists in each category will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner, held at the East Sussex Golf Resort and Spa on January 29.