Across the UK, in big cities and small towns, regular farmers markets take place, where consumers can buy food direct from the farmers and growers who produce it.
In all of these markets, a range of food can be bought, and sometimes tasted there and then. From vegetables and fruit, through to meat and fish, jams, jellies and local delicacies; many wonderful types of food will be available, depending on the season.
What’s Available at a Farmer’s Market?
What is available at each different Farmer’s Market will depend entirely on the farmers and producers who come to sell on that day, and the current growing season. No two farmers markets, even those operating in different cities on the same day, will be the same. They are a totally unique experience of connecting the consumer to the farmer, and providing both with knowledge of locally grown, seasonal food.
So consumers shouldn’t go with a very specific shopping list, other than the expectation of buying the freshest produce possible. Some markets operate a policy that restricts the market to farmers and growers who work within a certain number of miles of the town or city being able to sell their produce. This helps to ensure that only the freshest produce is sold – not produce that needs to be frozen or dried before being shipped or trucked hundreds of miles before being sold, as is often the case with much of the food sold in supermarkets and other shops.
In winter, typical vegetables available at a weekly farmer’s market might include spinach, squash, beetroot, potatoes, onions and root crops. Some forms of meat, probably organic turkeys and geese ready for Christmas, and a range of fish and fish products, are generally available.
Organic, Seasonal, Local
If a farmer or growers produce is grown organically, it will be marked as such. Look out for organic certification signs, or ask the seller about this. Most sellers will be happy to tell customers about the origin of the food, the growing processes involved, the health benefits of eating it, and probably some recipe ideas. Many customers who show an interest in the food sold at farmers markets have been invited to visit the farms and see the growing process at close range.
Eating food grown in the current season re-connects people back to the land. Supermarket shopping has lulled consumers into a sense of false food security, believing any type of food can be bought at anytime of the year. Seasonal food is tied in to weather patterns and soil type, not economic determination and agricultural forecasting, or genetically modifying seed (GM crops) to ensure huge supplies can be grown, weed and pest free, to satisfy the needs of the agri-industry, not the consumers.
Farmers markets also benefit the shopping public by making them aware of the agricultural richness of the area they live in. If food on sale at a farmers market is grown within a radius of 30 miles of the market, then its great to see the variety and range of produce being grown and produced within that area. Consumers may discover for instance that just a few miles down the road is a farm that sells the most wonderful tasting fruit – raspberries, gooseberries, apples and plums, perhaps. Or a first time customer at a farmers market might discover that the local area is nationally renown for its asparagus and potato varieties.