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Mary-Jane

Farmers Markets: do you have an opinion you'd like to share?

My best pal (and horticulturist) Claire (based in London) is doing some research on Farmers' Markets and is keen to get a number of opinions from a wide variety of people who are connected with Farmers Markets in any way at all.

If you're a consumer, a producer, supplier and/or a seller at Farmers Markets, or simply have an opinion on them, I'd be really pleased to receive any comments you may have - either openly here in the thread, or if you prefer, privately via PM.

The title of her research is: "Are Farmers' Markets raising the profile of organic foods or simply pandering to a minority?"

If you wish to contribute (and it doesn't have to be an essay - even a line or two in this thread would be great!) would you kindly also let me know your name, your location (doesn't have to be a full address) and what your connection is with Farmers' Markets (i.e. consumer, producer, seller, organiser etc).

Any contributions need to be with me by Monday 7th December latest. On behalf of Claire, many thanks. Very Happy
Brownbear

In answer, how many farmer's markets are about organic, rather than local food, anyway?
Mary-Jane

Brownbear wrote:
In answer, how many farmer's markets are about organic, rather than local food, anyway?


Well quite. I would have thought that farmers' markets are not first and foremost about organic produce, but local produce. I would certainly put local above organic any day.
Nick

But she's in London. Londoners have funny views about local, because anything is far away.

For me, as a consumer, they are badly advertised locally. We have one every 3rd Thursday and every 4th Saturday, or something. I want it to be there on the first Saturday in the month, or similar. Otherwise, I love them.

And yeah, local, not organic.
Tavascarow

I agree with Nick.
Also because they are locally infrequent to make a living trading at them I imagine you would have to travel long distances which adds to costs, carbon footprint & dents the 'buying local'.
If every town council set up a small local store with subsidised rent & rates which only stocked local produce & was open 6 days a week then I think it would be a lot more popular & profitable.
A sort of mini local coop if you get my drift.
Barefoot Andrew

I'd like one every weekend, not just once per month. Then it becomes realistic for weekly shops.
A.
Penny Outskirts

Definitely weekly, but I don't use the one in Cheltenham
Nicky Colour it green

i dont think they are about organic produce at all, but about local produce and giving local famrers a chance to sell their wares, and local consumers somewhere to buy from other than supermarkets.

so in direct answer to the question No, I don't think they are raising the profile of organic food, because that is not what they are about.
cab

When they're accessible they're great. Trouble is all too often they're tucked away in suburban or village halls.

They're at their best integrated with the rest of local retail, taking over a towns market square for one day a week or a day per month, or even as an add on to the existing market place.
RichardW

Within our county (so thats about 70 miles in any direction ish) they are either

a, crap (I define crap as lack of suppliers & lack of customers)
b, great for customers but stitched up for suppliers & there is no way you will ever get a spot
c, controlled by a "body" that is just in it for them selves so you cant sell any item they sell in the on site shop.


So any way you look at it farmers markets dont work here.

Add in that the population cant afford "good" food & only want cheap mainly & any one trying to sell a product with standards or a story wont last.
lottie

If the one in Aberystwyth was every saturday instead of having to remember it's every 1st.and 3rd. then I would use it more----I understand why they aren't every week but people tend to have set weekly shopping routines.
Mrs R

I've done hundreds, selling free range pork. My thoughts (apart from farmer's markets not so much being about organic, as has been said) would be:

1) Put them under cover the second it gets cold - sellers and surely customers too would rather not wander about in the open in winter? If you're going to be doing your weekly shop at a farmer's market you want to do it in comfort. Supermarkets 'get' this, why can't everyone else?

2) They must be weekly, or AT LEAST fornightly if they are to be a viable alternative to other shopping. At the moment people go to buy special, rather expensive treat type items once a month, maybe stocking up...but they still get the rest from supermarkets. Things like milk, butter, bacon and sausages and veg need to be a regular supply. As a seller, I would rather do one central farmer's market every saturday than serve 4 different places in a month. Build up the regular customers.
Fee

Our nearest aren't regular at all, we don't really have a 'local' farmers market unfortunately, and they have funny timings like the first Tuesday of every other month, which just isn't practical to remember.

I agree about advertising too. I couldn't actually tell you where and when our next is, which is a pity because if I knew I would certainly use it.

Fee (consumer) in Camberley, Surrey (Hampshire & Surrey Farmers Markets)
shopgirlsue

Agree that for me Farmers Markets are about local rather than organic. I used to go to a great one in Beaconsfield (Bucks) but it was only once a month so no good for regular shopping. However it was good fun and hopefully raised the profile of local producers.

Here (Shaftesbury) I can't remember when the Farmers Market is but it doesn't seem to have many more stalls than the weekly market which is mostly local people anyway.

Sue (occasional market consumer but still a Waitrose girl at heart Embarassed )
Rob R

As a consumer I have been to a couple but as I like doing most of my buying at obscure times of the day then they are not practical. As a person living in town I would use them more, like a traditional market, but it would need to be regular and well organised (advertising, location, etc).

I think Farmers Markets have a reputation of being about 'organic' and this may put people off using them. They shouldn't be exclusive, either for consumers or producers, or you'll never get the people in, even if it is organised.

As a producer I decided early on that farmers markets were not practical for me- I had all the work to do with selling our produce, and there were only two of us to deal with the rest of it. I think farmers markets could fit in perfectly for farming families where children are looking to keep the business going- ie plenty of staff & a bit of extra capital to invest.

I think you know my name & address Wink
nats

Our local one appears to be booming, it's weekly, and outside the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet village which is always busy. Unfortunately for me it's on a Sunday morning, which means I have to dash their really fast after Church, and preferably have ordered what I want in advance otherwise they will have sold out. However it seems to work for both the sellers and buyers. And yes it's primarily local not organic, but some are both and certainly I don't see any battery hens eggs for instance.... The weekly thing seems to make a big difference
Nick

Re: Farmers Markets: do you have an opinion you'd like to sh

Mary-Jane wrote:

The title of her research is: "Are Farmers' Markets raising the profile of organic foods or simply pandering to a minority?"


Sorry, I'm going to come back to this. Her question is flawed. There are over 500 farmer's markets in the UK, and more than 50% are signed up to FARMA, making it by far the largest 'standard'. It's ALL about local, and there's no mention of organic on it's website at all, except in the FAQ where it says they are not about organic.

Before she launches tons of effort into this, can she change the title? Suggesting they may be 'pandering' and organically focussed may end up doing harm to them.

http://www.farmersmarkets.net/index.htm
sean

Re: Farmers Markets: do you have an opinion you'd like to sh

Nick wrote:
Mary-Jane wrote:

The title of her research is: "Are Farmers' Markets raising the profile of organic foods or simply pandering to a minority?"


Sorry, I'm going to come back to this. Her question is flawed. There are over 500 farmer's markets in the UK, and more than 50% are signed up to FARMA, making it by far the largest 'standard'. It's ALL about local, and there's no mention of organic on it's website at all, except in the FAQ where it says they are not about organic.

Before she launches tons of effort into this, can she change the title? Suggesting they may be 'pandering' and organically focussed may end up doing harm to them.

http://www.farmersmarkets.net/index.htm


What Nick just said. None of the ones that I've used have been about organic at all. They've been about local (ISTR that London ones are allowed to define local as further away than the rest of the country.).
gil

In Scotland, also very much about 'local'. Organic may be available but is not the main point, or USP of the markets. Other than [obviously] for the individual producer who is certified organic, as well as being local.

Though Edinburgh and Glasgow have a wider producer catchment area because of city spread, and are more like 'Scottish' produce by smaller producers.

Topic title needs changing, IMO, or your friend won't get meaningful results,as her basic premise is incorrect.
Mrs R

I'd question use of the term 'pandering' too, it's quite negative - I'm sure sellers aren't pandering to anyone, they're just trying to make a living!
Mary-Jane

Nick wrote:
Mary-Jane wrote:

The title of her research is: "Are Farmers' Markets raising the profile of organic foods or simply pandering to a minority?"


Sorry, I'm going to come back to this. Her question is flawed.


Ixy wrote:
I'd question use of the term 'pandering' too, it's quite negative - I'm sure sellers aren't pandering to anyone, they're just trying to make a living!


Just to set the record straight. My friend didn't set the question - it was given to her to research.
sean

Ahh. Then the answer is No.
Jo S

nats wrote:
Our local one appears to be booming, it's weekly, and outside the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet village which is always busy. Unfortunately for me it's on a Sunday morning, which means I have to dash their really fast after Church, and preferably have ordered what I want in advance otherwise they will have sold out. However it seems to work for both the sellers and buyers. And yes it's primarily local not organic, but some are both and certainly I don't see any battery hens eggs for instance.... The weekly thing seems to make a big difference


Oooh, that's not far from me. What time does it kick off?
gil

Mary-Jane wrote:
Just to set the record straight. My friend didn't set the question - it was given to her to research.


Then it gives her an opportunity to demolish the question at the outset.

Or perhaps she might have a quiet word with whoever set the question in the first place to get it rephrased, because otherwise she may have a task trying to do the project.

There's plenty of easily available evidence to demolish the initial hypothesis without needing to discuss further [e.g. lists of producers that go to each farmers market, and whether or not they are organic].
T.G

Well farmers markets are not a new thing in these parts, Bakewell Market, for example, has been going for decades and I suspect generations. It's far from organic lead. It used to be local farm produce, its still called a farmers market but less and less local stuff is sold at it, and less farmer produce, imho.

There are lots of farmers markets, not many mention organic, not even at stall level, they are well advertised, but always in the day time, which to me seems a bit bonkers, most people around here are commuters, Derbyshire is well known for having bugga all work, so unless you're loaded, landed gentry, or retired you'd be out of the county (most probably) working in any of the neighbouring cities.

So basically farmers markets are for tourists and it would seem their prices reflect that.

We do have evening Christmas farmers markets so why not in mid week all year round ...pfft
Rob R

Just a thought, is Downsizer essentially an online farmers market?
Barefoot Andrew

I really like that idea.
A.
cab

Re: Farmers Markets: do you have an opinion you'd like to sh

Mary-Jane wrote:

The title of her research is: "Are Farmers' Markets raising the profile of organic foods or simply pandering to a minority?"


Within the context of the question, it would seem to me that farmers markets do both. While farmers markets don't have to be organic, a lot of the produce IS organic. Where the market is central to other retail (like in a town or market square) its raising the profile, where its not integrated in that way (out of the way suburban hall or suchlike) its 'pandering to a minority'.

The fact that catering to a speciality market should be portrayed in such a negative light speaks volumes about whoever set the question.

Cambridge farmers market, which is on alongside the craft market on Sundays (Market Square, same place the daily market is on for the other 6 days), is a good example of integrating the two (alongside other retail in the city centre). It raises the profile of local and organic produce. I'd say that the travelling farmers market with its quite complex route around the suburbs and villages ('x Sunday or Y Saturday each month') does little to raise the profile of such produce, relying on people making a special trip.
gil

cab wrote:
Where the market is central to other retail (like in a town or market square) its raising the profile, where its not integrated in that way (out of the way suburban hall or suchlike) its 'pandering to a minority'.

Cambridge farmers market, which is on alongside the craft market on Sundays (Market Square, same place the daily market is on for the other 6 days), is a good example of integrating the two (alongside other retail in the city centre). It raises the profile of local and organic produce. I'd say that the travelling farmers market with its quite complex route around the suburbs and villages ('x Sunday or Y Saturday each month') does little to raise the profile of such produce, relying on people making a special trip.


You need to take into account climate, town centre issues, and the legislation/administration of markets. Also existing street market provision in a town / region. The sitauion is far more complicated than Cab suggests [perhaps based on living in cities].

T
cab

gil wrote:

You need to take into account climate, town centre issues, and the legislation/administration of markets. Also existing street market provision in a town / region. The sitauion is far more complicated than Cab suggests [perhaps based on living in cities].

T


With regard to the practicalities of running/shopping at/selling at such markets I entirely agree; variation in climate, access, etc. is hugely important. Within the context of the question, however, I'd say that if consideration of those other parameters results in the market being held away from other places people may visit (other shops, for example) you'll not promote either local or organic produce all that well, and that the 'pandering' option (horrible, weighted way of putting t) may be closer to the truth.

We've got the option of shopping at either, as well as having shops that specialise in good, local produce. We use the shops for some things, the market (farmers market and daily) for some others, and the outlying, intermittent farmers markets almost never.
gil

In Scotland, each market has to be licensed. This costs money. The licence lasts three years, and covers a single venue. i.e. you cannot change the venue, date or time of the market unless you pay more [quite a lot more] money, on each and every occasion you vary the original licence.

Many areas of Scotland do not have street markets [any more]. There is thus no existing market to piggyback on. And no tradition of closing off parts of the street to enable the market to happen. If you wanted to do this now, without a precedent, it is almost impossible. You'd have to liaiase with the council, police, fire service, etc etc, and it would, again, cost money, if it could be agreed at all.

factor in the climate, and you have more complications. It is unpleasant for customers and producers alike to stand/walk around/make buying decisions in cold, pouring rain.
gil

sorry, my reply boxes are misbehaving.

So it would be difficult to hold a farmers market outdoors part of the year, and indoors in the coldest months, because of having to vary the licence. Outdoors but under cover does not work very well either [wind, cold].

So the best option up here, in a sparsely populated area, is to have indoor markets, in village halls or sports centres or town halls. Because centres of population are small, it would not be economically viable to have a FM in the same place each week. Also, the distances involved for customers to travel. So we have monthly markets, and within each sub-area of the region, market days are planned so that there is a market somewhere in the same valley / catchment area for every weekend of the month.

I'd suggest that there are big differences in the organisation, running and rationale for FMs withiin the UK as a whole.

BTW, this is a view from someone who has been very involved in farmers markets both as organiser and producer.
And on occasion as a customer.
gil

Also depends what kind of indoor space that is large enough can be rented for a reasonable fee, so we have ended up with a variety of venues in the region.
Locally, we have markets in town halls [3], sports centres [1], village halls [several], the function room of a pub [1], and latterly there has been one attempt to start a street-based market [initial markets on this site did not go well, despite the town centre venue, partly because of access/loading problems for the traders onto a site which is a pedestrianised shopping street].
cab

Do you find that you get mostly people making a special trip for the farmers market or are they drawn in while doing other things though? The former would be more like 'pandering' to the few (still hate that phrase Smile ) and the latter is more akin to 'promoting' the produce to a wider market.

Just comparing the crowds at the two types, my experience (at least down here) is that you get a much more diverse group when the market is well integrated in the population centre; that this may well be practically impossible in some places may well be a reason why the 'pandering' thing could be held to be true.
gil

It's hardly 'pandering' up here, because you get the wide cross-section of customers, just from a smaller population / geographical area. It is, after all, a remote rural area, and not a prosperous city with existing markets, universities, industry and a customer catchment that probably far exceeds the entire population [c.100,000] of our whole region.

If local folk come into a town to go to a market, they will do other things while there [go to the shops, the library, visit friends/relations]. Shop traders benefit from the extra footfall in the town.

Village markets less so, though they attract locals, tourists, and people working nearby or travelling across the region between towns [it's a region traversed by one major route, so easy enough to stop off to one side or t'other]. Has to be said that village markets do better in the summer months when there is tourist trade as well. But if there weren't markets in those places, a lot of the region would not have regular access to FMs / local produce.

BTW Most of our towns are the same size or smaller than an English village.... Our villages are more like your 'hamlets'.
gorbut

We have a weekly farmers market but I am afraid I don't go very often because there is very little there that I would call local. This market is in Walthamstow NE London and stuff comes from Kent,Hertfordshire and even Somerset Unless it has changed radically there is nothing from Essex except occasionally someone selling honey which I do buy. The prices are also quite high. This is partly because a lot of the things are free range and organic and are often out of my price range. That is not to say that the price they are asking isn't fair just that I don't seem to be able to stretch my budget. The other things there are added value things such as cakes, pies and preserves and I do those myself so don't usually buy them. It is worth a journey sometimes to buy the spelt bread which my son finds easier to tolerate then ordinary wheat but that is a luxury for him due to the price.

My parents in law live in Sussex and the had a great Sunday market years ago which was largely local produce. That ended though when Sainsburys bought the land and built a superstore.
katie

I've spent a lot of time selling plants at farmers' markets.
The ones in wealthy areas usually have organic food as well as local. In the less rich towns, it's mainly local.

They are valued by people who think local food is important but I've heard many variations on the theme of 'I shan't bother again - it's no cheaper than the supermarket!' Rolling Eyes
woodsprite

Our official farmers market is monthly. It is well stocked and well attended and half of the stalls are there on a weekly basis as part of the ordinary market ( running 3 days a week since 1100) anyway. This, along with great shops, is the reason that I can buy everything I need locally and the vast majority of my food is local.
Rosemary Judy

I have stopped using our local ones, as they are the one week here the next there and I simply can't remember which is being held where.
And I work full time now, and resent having to travel to diff places a long way off to get my food.
I use the local farm shop - who sell at the FM's anyway, and also use downsizer as my FM.
I still grow a lot of my own veg and fruit, and make my own tomato sauces and so on. and a neighbour has just opened a fruit and veg shop, and she is committed to local and fetches me a box every week
I make my own bread.

I don't eat much meat compared to some, but have bought off here and also a good friend who has beef.

I would like to be able to buy local cheese and milk, but there isn't much near me.

I would like to go to the same place every week - so I do and it is a supermarket.....
Rob R

Barefoot Andrew wrote:
I really like that idea.
A.


Only one problem- as a farmers market [ds] there isn't much 'local' unless you're in Wales or the west country.
Barefoot Andrew

Rob R wrote:
Only one problem- as a farmers market [ds] there isn't much 'local' unless you're in Wales or the west country.


I was thinking about that earlier - whether I should be supporting my local producers here in Derbyshire (of which we have plenty), or getting my produce from the likes of Gil, Brownbear and yourself.

Despite the food miles, I personally prefer to support the traders I know and our rather wonderful community herein.
A.
Rob R

For me I'd put knowledge of what goes into my food above 'local' but fully intend to increase the local sales throughout 2010, when the place stops looking so much like a building site but I'd still rather have mostly deliveries as our lane isn't really suitable for lots of people coming and going.
cab

Barefoot Andrew wrote:

I was thinking about that earlier - whether I should be supporting my local producers here in Derbyshire (of which we have plenty), or getting my produce from the likes of Gil, Brownbear and yourself.

Despite the food miles, I personally prefer to support the traders I know and our rather wonderful community herein.
A.


Its a two-stage thing for me. I go for local producers who I can get to know and rely on first, more distant downsizer traders second (if I struggle to get what I want very locally). That isn't to say that there aren't some cracking producers on here, but if that banner at the top 'for a sustainable and ethical future' means anything I think it means relying on local first.
cab

Rob R wrote:
Barefoot Andrew wrote:
I really like that idea.
A.


Only one problem- as a farmers market [ds] there isn't much 'local' unless you're in Wales or the west country.


I hear tell of some meat up near Hull that ain't bad.
Chez

I agree with the people who have said that the question is a very strawy straw man. The farmers markets we have anything to do with are ALL about local. Organic comes a small second, if at all.

We do Wellington Farmer's market, which is two Saturday mornings a month and is in a scout hall very central to the town - mostly inside, a bit outside. Ma sells mainly cut flowers at that one and there are plant sellers, veg, goat-products (not milk, soap, cheese, that kind of thing), a pie chap, butcher, venison, bread, eggs and trees. It is a vibrant little market - probably due to the fact that people who are shopping in the town centre anyway can pop in - that is worth going to for both consumers and producers. There is a lot of local produce and very little organic.

One Saturday a month we do Cotford, which is essentially a modern housing estate - the market is in the school hall. That is a bit more 'crafty' in it's base and people have to make a special effort to come out to shop at it. It is not doing nearly so well and many stallholders are not even covering the cost of their stall. There is talk that this week will be the last one.
Rob R

cab wrote:
Rob R wrote:
Barefoot Andrew wrote:
I really like that idea.
A.


Only one problem- as a farmers market [ds] there isn't much 'local' unless you're in Wales or the west country.


I hear tell of some meat up near Hull that ain't bad.


Not many ds'ers though, how can we attract more? Laughing
ros

I am happier buying Rob's beef - I know more about it - than I do local at the farmer's market ( it's also miles cheaper)

We have one monthly one where if I'm lucky there will be 4 stalls, one of which is the local bakers (which is a 25 yard walk from the market (profile raising ?????) )

The one in Biggleswade is better, but again the emphasis is on local- not organic and it's expensive - there is a premium at the markets over buying from the farm shop for the same produce
Mrs R

Rob R wrote:
For me I'd put knowledge of what goes into my food above 'local' but fully intend to increase the local sales throughout 2010, when the place stops looking so much like a building site but I'd still rather have mostly deliveries as our lane isn't really suitable for lots of people coming and going.


I'm hoping we can add lots of different things too other than just meat - eggs, milk, soap, veg etc so it's a one-stop-shop. but not a shop.
Jonnyboy

Re: Farmers Markets: do you have an opinion you'd like to sh

Mary-Jane wrote:


The title of her research is: "Are Farmers' Markets raising the profile of organic foods or simply pandering to a minority?"



As a consumer, my personal opinion is that farmers markets are working against the profile of organic food in that they provide a sensible, ethical and informed choice to consumers that can result in them choosing an alternative to organic. Whereas previously they would have seen it as the panacea of ethical shopping.

I would go further and say that from the markets I regularly visit, locally sourced food now takes a higher profile than organic. Most of the key buzzwords I see revolve around 'small, local, family, traditional' etc. It's almost as if the core of farmers markets are slowly evolving 'backwards' towards the original market concept.

Also I have seen a growth in the less traditional stalls cropping up - coffee, paintings, candles, and a huge amount of hot food stalls - curries, mexican, bloody crepes Mad , which I assume cater for the farmers market experience rather than the actual shopping for meat, cheese, bread and vegetables bit
Jamanda

We don't have a farmer's market as such, but there are a few stalls selling locally cured meat and local veg among the bric-a-brac in the pannier market on a Saturday - the only hot food is Anne Bacon catering who makes a mean pasty! I don't think anything is organic.
dpack

they vary ,some are ace,
regular and local is to be found in newgate market ,york
mochyn

As dpack says, they vary. Organic is not the guiding ethos of Farmers' Markets so the question's a bit of a non-starter, really, unless it's getting at a possible public mis-conception that FMs are for the middle class, wealthier person and 'just a trend'.

What they are there for is to provide a fairer outlet for the producer and customer, enabling access to good, locally produced food (IMHO).
Cathryn

I also agree that it is about local and not organic.

Apparently they didn't have to pay rates at our local one which was seen as rather unfair by the local butcher (selling local meat). I'm not sure how correct that is however.

I think they have probably helped to show the link between farmer and produce and for me (as an idealist) this is one of their most important functions.

I don't use ours for the reason that others have stated, it is incovenient (I avoid having to go into town at any time unless I have to go for work but especially on a Saturday), expensive (in that on the couple of occasions I have bought meat from there it hasn't been all that special). I buy meat and veg locally and usually in bulk.

My farmer's edited response (aside from his comments on organic which tend to need moderating) is that he has to provide a product on an economic scale on the world markets and hurrah for the weak .

I have never visited one that appeared to be economically viable and I would like to.

Sorry - doesn't answer the question.
Rob R

Cathryn wrote:
I have never visited one that appeared to be economically viable and I would like to.


That was my problem (as a potential producer) that would have meant it would not have been that economically attractive after investing in equipment & extra staff. Although you don't have rates, as you don't with a farm shop, you do have fees and where a shop can double up as processing/storage space, fees & fuel are gone at the end of the day.
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