LAST night saw the launch of this year’s eagerly awaited Hampshire Fare Food Festival.

The event, held at Leckford Farm Estate near Stockbridge, saw foodies gather from across the county to see what locally-sourced treats were on show and discuss the range of forthcoming events.

Guests included Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, Mayor of the Test Valley Councillor Jan Lovell, Lady Wakeham, patron of Age UK Winchester, as well as local chefs, members of the press, and sponsors and supporters of Hampshire Fare.

Last year 80 events attracted 180,000 people and generated over £3.25 million for the local economy. The Fare was awarded a Silver Award in the Tourism Event of the Year category at last year's Beautiful South Awards.

And this year promises to be even better with a whole host of markets, mini-festivals, tasting sessions, chocolate-making, cream teas, summer fetes, pop-up shops and, of course, wine, beer and cider festivals.

Tracy Nash, commercial manager of Hampshire Fare, organisers of the Hampshire Food Festival, said: “This year’s Festival is more exciting than ever with something for everyone, whether you’re a family, a foodie, a wine-lover or want to learn cooking skills; and the Festival is a great way to explore our lovely county.”

Guests were treated to a glass of fizz from local winemakers, Cottonworth, Hattingley Valley and Leckford Estate and ticked into Broughton Water Buffalo burgers with tomato relish supplied by Hampshire Jam and Chutney. They were served in buns baked by Oven Door, using Leckford Estate flour.

Mike Wright, chairman of Hampshire Fare, welcomed guests and thanked Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder for introducing this year’s Hampshire Food Festival, and the Leckford Estate for their support with the evening’s event. He also thanked Hampshire Fare’s sponsors.

He said: “We are passionate about local food and we are determined to put Hampshire on the map as a food destination. This is only possible thanks to the support of our sponsors and we are grateful to them for their belief in what we do.”

The month-long festival promises to celebrate all produce Hampshire between July 1 to August 3, including farm tours and brewery tours, markets and fairs, cookery demonstrations and workshops that showcase the rich abundance of Hampshire produce.

Hampshire Fare, made up of numerous members, aims to increase awareness of local produce, promote local crafts, foster good business practices aiding viable enterprises and organises a range of festivals, exhibitions and promotions.