Good food for everyone

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Such diversity – of people and produce

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last week I made one of my occasional visits to the Friday morning fruit and veg market stall in Newcastle Emlyn. It’s always good to get there early for the biggest choice, so I was home by ten past eight (although it did mean I missed my early morning swim). It’s a great way to buy cheap fresh veg, especially in an area like this where we don’t have the sort of permanent, diverse market that I knew when I was growing up in Leeds. There, Kirkgate Market  is an amazing place to buy all sorts of food, from game and meat to fish and fruit, not forgetting all the range of vegetables and pretty much anything else you might want to own. The place was characterised by the cries of the stallholders and I can’t hear a yell of ‘getcher caulis ‘ere’ without being transported back to the sights and smells of the market. If you want to get a feel for the place, the reviews posted here give a good flavour. I have clear memories of my mother shopping there regularly – the open air greengrocers’ stalls were right at the bottom by the bus station, so we bought fruit and veg last on any shopping trip to minimise the distance it had to be carried (these were the days when families had no more than one car and women went shopping on the bus).

Although the Friday stall is not easy to access by public transport, it’s still well used. There are people buying their weekly greengroceries, people shopping for catering supplies, people buying in bulk for preservation (like me). It doesn’t seem to attract a particular sort of clientele. Everyone in the town knows it and it’s always busy… even at 7:30am when they still haven’t finished pricing everything up! And people like me are happy to drive there from the surrounding area.

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we should all have access to this

Recently, in contrast, I read a post by Steven Croft about the exclusivity of farmers’ markets. He cited Jessica Paddock’s research which found that “predominantly working class people consider themselves to be out of place and possibly not welcome at farmers’ markets”. It saddens me that something which should connect producers directly with consumers has become divisive and too expensive (or at least perceived as such) for everyone to benefit from. “Normal” markets seem to be thought of differently. The Friday stall is not run by a producer, but by a greengrocer, and the customers do not seem to fit into any particular category… other than that they’ve all got up early!

I wonder how we best connect growers with consumers and make that connection seem normal. Neither consumers nor producers seem to benefit much from supermarkets other than in terms of convenience. All the packaging and hidden processing associated with supermarket produce cannot be a good thing for either people or the planet. Buying direct would certainly address this issue and others, but the mechanisms are challenging and the logistics within both rural and urban areas are problematic. So, all I can say is support your growers whenever you can and don’t be intimidated by farmers’ markets – they are not entirely full of hipsters seeking out venison and cranberry sausages and locally grown quinoa (pronounced keen-wah, you know!).

If you are interested in equity, ethics and sustainability with respect to production and access to food, there are some interesting articles on the Sustainable Food Trust’s web site.

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13 Comments

  1. I remember as a child in the nearby town there was a twice-weekly market day. On Saturday it was everything from umbrellas to pumpkins via homewares, sausages and fabrics. On Thursday it was exclusively fresh: meat, bread, vegies, flowers. The market square was the centre of the town and market days saw people flood in from the outlying communities and renew social bonds as well as replenish their larders. Sadly, the market square is now a prettified ‘pedestrian precinct’…

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  2. Well said Mrs Snail! I feel so priviledged to have C&M organics within walking distance, Fresh Veg Blaenffos with its stall on my way into Cardigan and several health food shops, local butchers and good bakers within easy travelling distance. What I find though is that shopping takes longer if I go to different shops for different things and I can see why families where both parents go out to work and the children have to be ferried too and from activities find the convenience and (unrealistic) cheapness of supermarkets appealing. A traditional market helps because all the stalls are grouped together but unless it happens every week (St Dogmaels does, Hermon is only quarterly) it is a ‘treat’ not the main source of food.

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    • Yes, indeed. I’m convinced that supermarkets thrive because everything is all under one roof. Kirkgate market in Leeds is fabulous because you really can do all your shopping there every week.

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  3. Ann Pole

     /  November 13, 2017

    My mum used to take me to the market in Leicester, then we would occasionally meet my dad during his lunch break and have a coffee and toasted tea cake in the Swiss Cottage. We do go to our local farmer’s market (we also garden for one of the farmer’s mum!) and have not felt out of place – though of course we wouldn’t be buying venison and cranberry sausages! Steve buy steak pies, and yes, they are more expensive than the supermarket, but they actually contain meat, and not just air.

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  4. I’ve just started using Kirkgate Market again. My daughter loves sweetcorn, which is ridiculously cheap there 😊.

    Such a shame that farmers’ markets seem to be seen as exclusive. Certainly, the prices can be off-putting but I guess they just reflect the real price of food.

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  5. My local market is incredibly pricey. I’ve bought fruit from the same orchard at the supermarket and it was–I kid you not–a dollar a pound less. When the market first started, it was less than the grocery store (no middle man) but more than the farmer would have received selling through the store. Now they just charge what the market will bear, so I go for special things and make sure I have in mind the budget for the day. It’s kind of sad.

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  6. I love going to my local farmers market! Sadly it’s only on every other week, but it always makes my weekend better when I go. It just feels good knowing I’m buying from the people who grew/raised/made the items and that they’re as fresh as possible. I love it

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    • Do you find it expensive? I’m really interested in this, because there seems to be a very mixed answer to this – in the UK and the US.

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      • Some things are. They tend to have deals on the fruit and veg so that works out the same or even cheaper than supermarkets usually. The meat and fish is relatively expensive, and they often have baking and curry stalls that are expensive too. I can afford it now, but when I was in my last job I never even went because I knew it was well out of my budget

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  7. Laurie Graves

     /  November 14, 2017

    Interesting post. Food for thought, you might even say. It’s related to a topic I have often thought about. That is, how the foodie movement can appear to be elite to some people, and sometimes with good reason. A few years ago, I went to a gathering of food writers, and the snobbery among some of the guests was very distressing to me. (Not all of them, of course!) Some of the writers even made fun of Maine, and they had a good laugh over the fact that Maine is such a hick state that Mainers didn’t even know about square plates until recently. Oh, my!

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  8. This looks like something I’d really enjoy, but I don’t even know if it would be allowed here. During the summer we buy the majority of our produce from a local farmer up the road and a few things from the weekly farmers market in town. Unfortunately, both are shut down until next May, so it’s back to the bland, overpriced supermarket produce for us.

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