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Farmers markets

When I was younger I used to visit a farmers market that sold livestock as well as locally grown produce. It was a popular and bustling place with much there to keep a youngster like me interested while my parents did their shopping. It was a time when meat was much more expensive and consumed much less than it is now.

Last weekend I was presented with a nice piece of lamb which had been bought from the local farmers market. This reminded me of the good old days and so I looked for information on the site on the web and was surprised to find several different farmers markets in my locale. I’m going to take a trip to as many as I can during the summer with the intention of seeing what there is available and what bargains there are.

I had already visited the one that is closer to home and I do not class it as a farmers market at all. I envision a farmers market to be one where a main farmer goes to sell his own produce left over from his obligations to wholesale suppliers or a small holder goes to sell the spare produce that he does not need. Thus honey, jam, curd, etc. is good but what of the other produce such as chickens, ducks, etc. Several of the local markets don’t actually do anything that you could not find in a town market anywhere. No live animals for example, just freshly butchered meat, fruit and vegetables and few general items. Although the meat is fresh, good quality and very tasty I suspect that they are just one step removed from supermarkets.

Is it me? Do I have a false impression of what a farmers market is about? I want the old style farmers markets. Is it because there is too much formality around them today. The local ones are all approved by the council. What does that mean? They all have NVQs in market stalls selling? Bureaucracy again.

I feel that the old style farmers markets will make a limited comeback. People like us will travel to buy their produce from the original farmer as the basics for their food stores and supplement those stores with items unavailable locally via supermarkets.

The general population however will still buy their food from the main supermarkets simply because it is much easier; local, one stop shop, food is marked with sell by and use by dates, sold in nice packets that look good in the cupboard and pre prepared meals with simple instructions on them for heating them up for consumption. Nice and simple for simple souls.

For us more complicated souls we should start looking at meeting and getting to know the local farmers and smallholders. Building up relationships with locals is never a bad move and could be of significant benefit even if no events occur. Depending on what you have you could barter for goods, negotiate a reduction in your costs or access to bulk supplies. You may also be able to gain access to goods and services that are difficult for us to get normally and you never know if anything happens that relationship may open doors that have been slammed shut, sealed and heavily guarded. Of course you need something to exchange as well. First the contact to start the relationship. Know any farmers or anyone who knows one already?

All that and the chance to reduce costs must make a farmers market worth a look.

11 comments to Farmers markets

  • Yo Skean,

    I`ve several “farmers markets” in my area, high quality meats etc….unfortunately 3 times the price of the local Tesco!

  • Skean Dhude

    Interesting. I suspect most of the farmers markets around here will be the same. Set up to sell Yuppy meat.

    I wonder if real farmers markets arejust not advertised. I’ll ask my the local farmer when I see him.

  • Ronnie

    As you suggest in your artical, the constraints within which we have to work which doesn’t make it easy to sell surpless at a farmers market.

    By the time you’ve paid for the stand, set asside stock, transport, etc, your costs are quite high. If a farmer is selling speciality high cost goods its fine, but selling off seasonal veg doesn’t make it worth while, people don’t buy lots of peas, carrots and potatoes at any one time, or think of these as ‘treat’ items as they might meat or honey.

    I grew up in South Wales, in Pencoed, (not there now!) there is a Gypsy fair every August, it is a bit like what you describe. You can buy hens, ponies, ferrets and a lot of different stuff, its great!

    But you could hear some people “tutting” that it was cruel to see the hens in cages (obviously only in there for the sale day), ferrets in pockets, and “If only the RSPCA were here to regulate the sale of all these animals”. I don’t think its the sort of thing one could get away with once a month.

  • Skean Dhude

    Ronnie,

    That is the problem with doing things formally. Everyone wants a big cut for doing little. No longer can you just set something up without filling in forms and paying fees. No wonder everyone calls the UK ‘Rip Off Britain’

    I might go down there and have a look at that Gypsy Fair. Any idea where I can find out more details?

    There are plenty of whingey whiney people out there. Yet they quite happily buy chicken from a battery farm. Hypocrites.

  • Ronnie

    Fair is held on North side of B4280 between Pencoed and Heol-y-Cyw. Reached from junctions 35 or 36 of M4.

    Wouldn’t want you to be disappointed if you’re travelling there on my recommendation; may not be as good as I remember it 10 years ago!

    Could only find two bits on it on the internet, one was a notice that it was cancelled (couple years ago) and then the artical below. As stated in the artical, the common was cleared up, rolled and reseeded, but not imediately. And this is why these events don’t go on.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/south-wales-news/bridgend-maesteg/2008/09/04/common-left-in-a-muddy-mess-91466-21668152/

  • Skean Dhude

    OK. I’ll keep my eye out this year and try and get along.

    Hope the weather works out OK this time. 🙂

  • moosedog

    I have no experience with them myself but a friend of mine says farm shops (shops at a farm as opposed to farmers markets) can be an excellent source of good, cheapish food. Good quality and good value for money.

  • Skean Dhude

    Moosedog,

    I have seen a few shops around here, sometimes just simply stalls, onmy travels.

    I’ll pay a bit more attention when I’m out and about and see what the prices are like.

  • Luddite

    Our local farmers market started out well, and then local shops started to take spaces, for instance a baker (who makes rubbish bread), then we got a commercial hog roast company, an amateur photographer selling prints, garish hand-knitted baby clothes, someone selling expensive imported chocolate…etc.

    Now the farmers who were selling meat are giving up because fees have gone up and it’s not worth their while, so there won’t be any farmers at the farmers market.

    Instead, I’ve been buying meat from a local (based in Glastonbury) company who deliver meat straight from the farms and local fruit and veg – and best of all, RAW Jersey milk, which is totally delicious and so creamy it’s yellow. I’d recommend them to anyone in Somerset. They’re called Somerset Local Food Direct.

  • Skean Dhude

    It looks like most farmers markets have gone the same way. Too many craft type stalls filled with tat and not enough that we want. On the other hand it is clearly what the people want as they are buying the stuff.

    I’m going to have a look at that gypsy fair in South Wales and see what it is like and keep my eye out on the road. Already today on my way out I spotted signs to two farmers shops at the side of the road. One selling meat only and another selling veg and some game birds.

    I’ll still look at the farmers markets around here and see if there are any worth shouting about.

    Somerset Local Food Direct deliver to most of Somerset but no further north than Bristol. They also deal in Fair Trade goods. I don’t agree with that and think it is another good idea corrupted to the detriment of the foreign farmers. I won’t support anything FairTrade.

  • Luddite

    I agree with you 100% about Fair Trade. It’s just another commercial organisation with good PR, and they’ve impacted companies who have been treating their farmers and workers decently for decades.

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