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Farmers Markets            

                            November 2008

Farmers Markets

 

Farmers MarketsAmazing isn’t it? A generation or so ago and the words farmers markets meant nothing to most of the population. Now they are increasingly becoming part of everyone’s daily life.

This is good news for lots of people as it fits in with two big current trends – eating fresh local produce and reducing food miles.

A farmers’ market is a market where farmers, growers and producers from the local area can come in person to sell their own produce direct to the public. All the products should have been grown, reared, caught, brewed or prepared by the stallholder.

Of course in the past this was exactly how food used to be sold, in the old market towns and villages. But with the advent of high streets and then out of town supermarkets, the old traditional food markets diminished. Now they are back with a bang. Today there are over 500 farmers' markets being held regularly across the country plus numerous farm shops and other outlets.

Many markets keep to the original idea and cover simply seasonal produce grown locally; others have a wider remit and include stalls selling ready made foods, especially organic foods, and also some speciality items from France and overseas. This takes away the local aspect but adds interest and variety of course.

Vegetables are the mainstay of most farmers’ markets and seeing what is in season does bring home the reality of food and how it is produced – so many of us have become used to the idea of buying anything we want at any time of year from the supermarket.

For a lot of people, it may come as a surprise that despite the cold gloomy weather of late autumn and winter, there is still lots of local fresh produce available for your meals. At the moment, popular items include cabbage, carrots, a few raspberries still coming, cauliflower, squash, celeriac, marrows, parsnips and pumpkins of course – great to eat and also cheaper now that Halloween has finished! Apples and pears are also available. Fresh meat, eggs and cheeses are available throughout the year and it would be a very dull cook who couldn’t find something nice to prepare from all these fresh ingredients.

Then of course there are the honeys and jams and pickled items that are also locally prepared, and some farmers’ markets have fresh cake, pie and home brewed beer and wine stalls; it is amazing the selection of great local produce that can be available.

An increasingly number of farmers’ markets are joining FARMA, the National Farmers' Retail & Markets Association. They independently assess and certify farmers' markets round the country to make sure they're genuine. This helps to ensure you are buying the freshest, most local produce possible.

But other new groups are also developing. There are now Country Markets, a co-operative organization with a membership of 65 regional market societies. These societies consist of over 400 separate co-operative markets selling the goods of more than 12,000 producers who are shareholders in the society. No one has an individual stall at these Country Markets, all the goods are put on sale together and everyone is expected to take their turn staffing the stalls and helping to run the market.

Country Markets have a formula to help producers work out a recommended minimum selling price which gives a good return for their work and a small commission (usually about 10%) is taken from the selling price of the goods to cover running expenses.

Going to your local farmers’ market can be fun and also become a regular social occasion; meeting friends and neighbours at a market has prompted many markets to incorporate sit down refreshment areas for visitors turning shopping into a fun event. Stall holders also become friends as you visit them month after month, talking about their products and how they produce them.

All in all, farmers’ markets have a lot going for them; no wonder they are growing so fast across the country.


Ongoing through Tuesday, December 30

To find your local farmers’ markets, look in your local paper or village shops. There are lots of websites giving details; a few useful sites include:

www.farmersmarkets.net

www.farmshop.net

www.lfm.org.uk (for the London area)

www.pickyourown.info

www.country-markets.co.uk

 


 


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