Forth Valley Food Festival whipped up the perfect recipe once again, with over 15,000 people flocking to a variety of events from foraging to farm tours over 10 days.

The annual food trail and promotional campaign, led by Forth Valley and Lomond Leader, offered nearly 50 opportunities to enjoy Forth Valley’s local larder at 12 locations across the region.

Douglas Johnston, Chair of the local LEADER programme said: “It has been great to see the festival grow this year, connecting even more local people and visitors with our region’s rich larder.”

For the second year running, ‘Meet the Goats’ at Gartur Stitch Farm was a sell-out success, with locals and visitors alike snapping up tickets to milk the goats, hand feed the sheep and collect eggs from the roost.

The festival has proved a real boost to business, as smallholder Kat Goldin explained: “Once again we’ve been blown away by the popularity of our farm tours. It’s always a joy to allow families to experience farm life first-hand, from milking the goats and feeding the sheep to cuddling a calf and collecting eggs. We’re passionate about educating the next generation and making our tours accessible, so all under 16s go free. We launched our ‘Meet the Goats’ experience during last year’s festival and it was so popular we started running it all year round.”

This year Gartur Stitch also added a pizza foraging experience, highlighting the free food that grows all around us.  A theme that was continued with a wild cocktail making event at Aberfoyle’s Forth Inn.

Rox Madeira of Trossachs Wild Apothecary who led the event said: “We showed how easy it is to use locally foraged ingredients to craft your own wild cocktails using syrups made from hawthorn berries, nettles and rosehip.”

With Halloween just around the corner, pumpkin picking at Arnprior Farm was also a huge hit.

Visitor Zoe Maughan from Prestwick said: “Our main reason for visiting the farm was to have fun picking a home grown pumpkin. At the same time, educating my son about the environment and where our food comes from. We loved the buzz on the patch, digging for tatties and playing in the straw bales.”

There were also plenty of free opportunities to get back to the land, from tree planting and gardening sessions at Stirling University community garden to guided tours of Tomnah’a Market Garden.

The festival also highlighted nearly 40 of the region’s local food producers through a series of local food promotions at Stirling Farmers’ Market, Stirling NeighbourFood and Blair Drummond Smiddy. With some producers offering special seasonal products to mark the festival, such as Riverside Bakery CIC.

Baker Theo Laffargue said: “We laid on spiced apple pastries using local apples, butter, milk and eggs and pumpkin sourdough using Tomnah’a pumpkins. They went like hot cakes. We sold out within an hour of them going on sale!”

Local food was also on the menu at the Old Mill in Killearn, with a special chilli feast and film screening.

Gary McAlpine of Drymen based Foragers Foods, which supplied locally grown chillies for the event, said: “We’re a small business, so to have the festival shine a spotlight on what we are doing is great. We hope the festival will encourage more people to support the local economy, cut down their food miles and connect with the people who make or grow food by shopping local.”

The Food Festival is supported by Stirling Council and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “This festival is a superb showcase of our vibrant and thriving food and drink sector, serving up a wide range of activities and tasty treats for families to sample.

“I am thrilled that this second helping has proven so successful and we will continue collaborating with partners to stage exciting events like this to strengthen this important area of Stirling’s economy.”

Vice Convener of the Committee, Cllr Alison Laurie added: “The Forth Valley Food Festival allows residents and tourists the opportunity to experience, explore and taste local flavours and boosts our ambition to become a must-visit destination for food and drink.

“With such a diverse variety of events taking place throughout urban and rural Stirling, there was something for everyone to enjoy and helped make this year’s event another great success.”