THE quality and availability of local produce is to be flagged up, following the appointment of a new farmers' market co-ordinator.

Katrina Palmer, who runs Bluebell Organics, has a regular stall at the Barnard Castle farmers' market.

Her new role will involve the organisation and promotion of farmers' markets at Barnard Castle, Stanhope and Bishop Auckland as well as forwarding the development of links between local food producers and catering establishments.

The overall aim is to develop and market an awareness of the quality of local produce available in Teesdale and Wear Valley; to foster a sense of local identity and to encourage businesses to buy local goods where possible.

Ms Palmer said, "This co-operation will be beneficial both to people who want to buy local produce at farmers' markets or to eat it at restaurants and pubs.

"It will also benefit the tourist trade by giving an additional attraction for visitors coming to stay in the area. If, for example, their B&B can provide a locally-produced breakfast it all adds to the attraction."

Ms Palmer, who was appointed earlier this month, said she was excited about the opportunity to promote local produce that came with her new role.

"I will still be involved in my own business and I hope this gives me the grounding and motivation to carry forward the developments outlined," she said. "I want people to see me as a focal point for issues around the farmers' markets and the development of local food links."

Later in the year, a logo scheme will be developed to identify local producers and businesses using their produce. Anyone interested in taking part can contact Ms Palmer on 07719 673739.

Her role was created through Teesdale Marketing, which acknowledges funding from One NorthEast, North Pennines Leader Plus, NEDL, GlaxoSmithKline and Teesdale and Wear Valley District Councils.

The first farmers' markets of the year will be held tomorrow at Barnard Castle and on Valentine's Day in Bishop Auckland, when it will be part of the town's beer festival.