Rise and Fall of Farmers Market?

January 17, 2011 at 11:04 am. Letters to Media.

Are markets are now not as popular as when they first started  7 years ago and why has this happened and what are the reasons?
I can only give my opinion on this having a stall at  two Farmers Market ( Saumarez Manor & Catel ) from when they first started up till this date.
The reasons why I became involved in them were for the following reasons and ideals.

Too sell more local produce from the smaller disadvantaged grower or smallholder.
These though being smaller in size and out put have a problem supplying the bigger outlets. They will not be able because of variety of reasons including  stringent Guernseys regulation, packing , bar coding, continuity, volume and quality. This is why about 25% or more of this produce gets wasted because of the colour, size or nobly shape.
The Farmers Market was another way for these  vegetables to be sold and get a more realistic price.

Another is the  environmental  reason,  to sell without so much expensive packaging, grading and unnecessary washing and so reduce the cost to the customer. The extra costs of this packaging etc  are paid by the  the grower and the consumer in different ways and  in some part will shorten the life of our only landfill site.

It is also to promote seasonal eating, thus saving in food miles and all the problems that this brings to the Island. The worlds average rainfall is less each year and the land is degrading and needs more water. Spain is the food basket of Europe and is so short of water that it is going to build 26 desalination plants. With over 2,500 growers having given up in the last 10 years, spanish growers are saying it will make it impossible to supply  Europe with their needs, let alone Europe. Also the Markets help the smallholders to, to have a cheaper cost base to sell their products. With the benefits to  the public of having some  local produce as much as 40% cheaper. This enables them to get established and grow, as the demand increases

In fact this year I compared some of my prices at some of the leading retailers and this is what I found.
Some of my prices Beans and Retailers in brackets per lb £1.00p, ( £3.00p ) bunched carrots £1.20p ( £1.60p), cherry toms £1.00p ( £1.25p ), leeks 85p per lb ( £1.28p ), Spanish type toms 75p per lb ( £1.25p ) courgettes 40p (85p). In the most extreme case, the beans of one large retailer were selling at 350 grams  for £3.50p.

The answer in my opinion is no and why.
When the markets started over 7 years ago the grew in popularity for about 4 years, but in the last 3 years their has been a steady decline. In that time many good stalls have come and gone because of the time spent on setting up with the financial rewards going down.
It has never been about  a big financial gain when it takes as much as two days of your time, but has been more about the satisfaction of selling local.
In my case growing local, helping to sell other small growers produce and being able to explain and talk to people about this.
It is a pleasure,  on a sunny summers day to be at the Market, with locals and visitors there. It is a shame that the best markets are at this time when we have visitors. They now make up the good ones, as it appears they support theirs better than we do.
Their success in the first few years encouraged more to set up, which in turn  have created to many with  trade and stalls being decided and split into different fractions.
We never met peoples perceptions and aspirations of a market flowing with abundant fruit, vegetables, fish,  meat and all other local goodies.
The Large retailers can meet most of these and are open longer hours and be a one stop shop, unlike the continentals do the opposite to us and tend to go to market first, then on to the larger retailers.
This was my dream, but the reality is that some of the most stringent and in some cases crazy laws that nobody has the guts to tackle and sort out are stopping this happening.
The trouble is I was born and grew up in an  era when growers could sell their produce at market, wholesale, shops hotels, restaurants etc. when we were more self sufficient and less waste. You caught your fish and sold them where you wanted without all the regulations and costs that make it impossible now.
When we  did not make local  laws that even the EU do not make, so we can burn good Guernsey beef instead of eating it.
So I thought that common sense would prevail and all this local produce would be at the Farmers Market, rather than in some cases dumped or going to landfill. This is when food prices because of climate change will not only be in short supply but will also increase in price as in the next 5 to 10 years. 
It is sad to me to think that the markets in the next few years may go the way of the Town Market and it will be the last.
As for my self, I believe the markets will change to being similar to  the Old Guernsey Markets and just be a tourist market related,  from April to October. I will be now be considering  selling in this time period rather than all year round.

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