Supporting Britain's farmers has always been at the heart of Waitrose, and as a supermarket we have a duty and a desire to do this, says ­Peter Cooke, Waitrose vegetable buyer

As a buying team we work in close partnership with our farmer suppliers to provide customers with high-quality British food and - wherever we can - with food that reflects their region. Our commitment to British farmers prompted us to consider how we can connect customers more closely with the farmers and growers responsible for their food and vice versa.

We launched our Regional Fresh Produce initiative in January 2005 with the aim of establishing this crucial link within the food chain and encouraging customers to think more deeply about the provenance of their food. Within weeks of launching our first two schemes in Kent and in the Midlands, we could see that we had tapped into a really strong customer demand for high-quality fruit and vegetables grown on their doorstep.

Now, nearly two years on, the scheme is flourishing. A heightened awareness of the need to support regional and local food producers has raised customer demand, and is increasingly pushing regional sourcing up shoppers' agendas.

Our scheme has been extended to cover six different areas: Kent, Scotland, East Anglia, Wales, Yorkshire and the West Country. A total of 59 branches now have a regional fruit and vegetable offer (almost a third of our shops). This number is still growing and we have further plans to increase the scheme over the coming months.

The scheme covers a wide range of produce from raspberries grown in Scotland to mushrooms grown in caves in Somerset. It also allows us to sell some varieties of fruit and vegetables that we would not be able to supply on a national basis. Many of the more unusual or heritage varieties are not grown in sufficient quantities to supply branches nationally, so our regional initiative gives customers the chance to try these. It also gives our shops their own regional identity.

Wherever possible we try to source products with a historical relevance to the area, for example rhubarb from Yorkshire or daffodils and leeks from Wales. All products are clearly labelled as coming from the region, and we also flag up regional provenance at the point of sale, offering customers the opportunity to support farmers from their region.

The scheme builds on our ongoing work of championing regional food producers, and we know that this provenance story is one that resonates with our customers.