This is a video of some of the producers I met at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market. I asked them whether they think the market has become more popular since the recession began to bite and where their produce is from. Highlights included organic salad leaves from Wild Country Organics – I bought some really fresh and tangy sorrel – also some organic rare-breed bacon from Muck & Magic Farming and leeks grown on Ripple Farm in Kent. All produce at the market is organic, biodynamic or wild and although it may sound expensive, I found my money went a lot further than it normally does at the supermarket.
The market is run by Growing Communities, a social enterprise in Hackney. It aims to create a more sustainable food system with better access to locally produced, fresh, organic food. There are also stalls selling hot food and fair trade coffee and you can sign up to an organic box scheme. The market runs from 10am to 2pm every Saturday at William Patten School on Church Street (you can see how to get there on my interactive map below).
The market was set up in 2003 and was the first farmers’ market in the UK featuring only organic and biodynamic producers, because, as the Growing Communities website explains, organic methods are better for the environment, wildlife, livestock and people. Certainly it was great to buy vegetables that I knew had not been sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides.
For me though, the real benefit was being able to talk with the people who grew the vegetables or raised the meat because it meant I appreciated the food more. I was also happy to buy food that wasn’t encased with unecessary layers of plastic. All the produce at the market has come from within 100 miles of Hackney and hasn’t been shipped up and down the motorway to be re-distributed. The money I paid went directly to the farmer or grower, rather than the supermarket or a wholesaler.
As Growing Communities highlights, the average age of farmers in the UK is 59. Young people have not been encouraged to enter an industry where land prices are exorbitant and returns are so low, not to mention the long hours and hard work. I have always respected a more traditional form of farming which follows the seasons and works with the natural environment – I suppose that’s a product of my uprbringing. For a report I did in Cornwall Today magazine last year I spoke to young farmers who were tentatively positive about the future. I just hope that more and more people support projects like Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market and give the next generation of farmers a chance.