THROUGHOUT the coronavirus pandemic Booths supermarket chain has stayed true to its values, keeping an eye on the bigger picture and supporting artisan food producers and owner-managed companies..

At the peak of the crisis the chain launched a campaign to help British artisan cheesemakers by promoting their products and encouraging shoppers to buy more. At the time, Graham Kirkham, one of the last makers of farmhouse Lancashire cheese in the country who lost 60 per cent of his business overnight as food service and wholesale markets shut down, said: “Booths is one of the ‘good ’uns’. They are a genuine family business that looks after the wider supplier community. Their support at a time like this is reassuring, valued and appreciated.”

Similarly, Booths helped My Fish Company, which saw 75 per cent of its trade disappear. Owner Gary Apps said: “The thought that another business would support us when the chips were down with such humility and integrity, it really meant the world to me."

At the same time, Edwin had the idea to send care packages to all the children of staff members, keeping them occupied with colouring books and sweets.

They provide a snapshot of the North West company – it has seven branches in Cumbria out of a total of 28 – and prove that its internal mantra of People, Product, Place isn’t a hollow commitment.

“It’s a very, very simple focus,” says Booths executive chairman, Edwin Booth, “and I can’t find any other way of describing us better. People have to come before product. They have the idea then follow it through. They are the lifeblood of our business.”

In June 2011 Edwin was appointed chair of the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).“I was very reluctant to do it and turned it down at first, then spent seven and a half years helping Lancashire to develop and grow. I have always been very pleased to help people to the best of my ability to achieve great things,” he says.

Another of these opportunities has come through The Prince’s Countryside Fund, which he helped established ten years ago following a round table discussion with HRH The Prince of Wales and others. A visit with third generation hill farmers Joe and Hazel Relph, at Yew Tree Farm, in Borrowdale, in the heart of the Lake District is said to have helped inspire the Prince to set up the fund, saying: “The countryside’s contribution to the national good has to be cherished and sustained. Without it, we will all be very much the poorer.”

The fund aims to enhance the prospects of family farm businesses and the quality of rural life. To help support and secure the future of the countryside it:

Provides more than £1.2m each year in grant funding to projects across the UK, from small local shops to farm networks and farms that have been impacted by the weather.

Celebrates and promotes the value of the countryside.

Leads projects to strengthen farm businesses, such as The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme.

Commissions research into issues affecting farming families and rural communities.

Brings together individuals and businesses to help tackle current challenges.

Helps communities in crisis through an Emergency Fund.

Booths was one of the founder grantees and Edwin is chairman of the nominations committee. “His Royal Highness is known for his very strong support for family farms, tenant farms and those small units in danger of disappearing. Our role is to support them and to lobby senior government officials to make sure they understand the dynamic of the countryside and farming; the small communities it supports, how people live in the countryside, how they can work virtually, whether there are sufficient services for young people in education, medical facilities for the elderly and so on. There is a real need for education and insight into how products are grown, sown and produced so that we respect not only the food we eat, but place significantly greater value on the people who provide it for us.”