SUPERMARKET price wars may help keep down the price of the food we buy, but while our shopping bills might be lower, we are paying the price for our cost-cutting in other areas.

The food we eat has often travelled thousands of miles to be on our plates, contributing to global climate change in the process.

Now a new wave of local producers selling home-grown food is taking the nation by storm.

And it is Hampshire's farmers and producers who are at the forefront of the battle against needlessly imported produce.

At Brockenhurst's Setley Ridge Vineyard, the emphasis is very much on all things local.

Its award-winning wines, produced and bottled on site, are proof that English wines can be up there with the best.

With the recent addition of a farm shop, you can now get your hands on a range of New Forest produce, including locally-reared meat, homegrown vegetables, cheese, jams, sauces and even charcoal.

Setley Ridge owners Paul and Hayley Girling were keen to give a tour of the vineyard and shop to prove that buying local makes sense.

"By buying food from here you can get a wide range of locally-sourced, really fresh produce," Paul said.

"It hasn't been picked unripe, sent of to a packing depot then all the way back to a distribution depot before finally reaching a supermarket.

"Instead we have produce like asparagus and strawberries which have been picked and are on our shelves within an hour.

"You just can't get that at a supermarket."

Paul bought Setley Ridge Vineyard in 1999, and opened it commercially in 2001.

Since then, his wines have won scores of awards in local competitions.

Recently his 2005 red took a gold medal in the Wessex awards, stamping the Setley Ridge mark firmly on the world of wine.

"We're getting the wine up to a quality now where we can enter national competitions," he said.

"Proof of the pudding is in the fact that local people are coming back and buying the wine simply because they like it, not just because they feel patriotic in supporting local growers.

"Ten or 15 years ago English wine was not really regarded at all and there was quite a lot of bad wine about.

"However, wine-making skills are getting better and better, and we are producing wines year-on-year now that people are coming back to buy.

"We're not trying to homogenise our wines either to make it identical each year - instead what you get is a kind of footprint of that season."

When long-running Brockenhurst greengrocers Purkiss closed down and was replaced by a Tesco Metro, Paul and Hayley jumped at the opportunity to stock locally produced groceries.

"When Mr Purkiss shut down and Tesco took over we saw an opportunity to supply produce that isn't standardised and mass-produced," Paul explained.

"We've since had a lot of support from local people.

"We're finding there's been a bit of a backlash against the supermarkets.

"Of course, they have their place, but we are finding more and more people are coming back and supporting the little guys."

Their success can be narrowed down to one thing - bringing quality local produce to the tables and dinner plates of local people.

"We try to source from local producers wherever we can," Paul said.

"All of our meat carries the New Forest Marque and it's all produced free-range.

"Our produce is more environmentally friendly because it hasn't travelled miles to be here.

"Vegetables come from two local organic producers within three miles of the store, and free-range chicken and eggs come from Ashley, which is about five miles away.

"Even our charcoal comes from a New Forest nature reserve.

"A lot of food you find in supermarkets has travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles.

"But even if it's English produce it still has to be picked up from a farmer, taken to a packaging depot, then back to a distribution centre and then to the supermarket shelves, so it's still travelling a very long way.

"Something might be local to a store but it still might have travelled an enormous distance before it ends up on the shelves just a few miles from where it started."

Not only is their produce local but it actually tastes good too.

"I think a lot of people now realise that fruit and vegetables have been in a sort of supermarket beauty pageant. Everything looks pristine and perfect, but it doesn't really taste of a great deal," Paul said.

"Strawberries and tomatoes are a classic example of that.

"Our fruit and veg doesn't always look spotless and perfectly shaped but it's tasty and it's good and genuinely fresh.

"We get to meet the growers and producers. They are the people who are bringing their produce into us.

"They are often family-run businesses, and there's a great feeling that we've gone backwards a couple of steps for the better.

"We're now thinking about small producers and sustainable growing - it's not all mass-produced and covered in pesticides."

For Hayley, the beauty of working with local producers is that you can still have the romance that is linked with a bygone era of farming.

"For example, when we pick the grapes from the vines, it's not a matter of getting in big machines and paying hundreds of people," she said.

"A load of our friends and family gather and we go out into the vineyard and help each other out.

"We pick the grapes and I put on a big lunch for everyone.

"As soon as you get huge producers you lose that romance, but it's something that we try to pass on through our products.

"It's not just a bottle of wine or just an apple pie.

"It makes us appreciate and respect food and where it comes from."

Just because they sell locally grown produce doesn't necessarily make Setley Ridge more expensive than their supermarket rivals.

Hayley explained: "Our large free-range eggs are 12p cheaper than at Tesco.

"People are often shocked at how inexpensive our produce is.

"It all goes back to the idea of cutting out the middle man - we're getting it direct so we can sell it at a good price."

So with local producers such as Setley Ridge leading the way in the fight against supermarket products, the future for "the little guys" is shaping up.

"On one hand there will be supermarkets, where the ethic is stock it high and sell it cheap, but a lot of people can't afford to pay the higher prices and that's a reality," Paul said.

"But at the other extreme there will be an increasing following for small, local producers within defined rural areas such as the New Forest."

"After all, it's the agriculture of this country which has shaped the countryside, and that must not be forgotten."