Thank a farmer
‘If you’ve eaten today, thank a farmer’. I saw this bumper sticker on a car a while ago and it struck a chord. For such a simple and obvious statement it still manages to have a powerful message.
We've lost the basic connection between the food that we eat and its origin. How we buy and consume our food these days means we just don’t have to give any thought to how or who it got here. Yet, no farmers also means no food. It’s that simple.
The best way to thank a farmer is to buy his or her produce and to pay a fair price for it. Buying direct is a great way to support farmers. So this month I’m spotlighting farmers' markets by picking three great ones that are easily accessible from three of our Club Sites.
But first, what constitutes a farmers' market? A key element of a farmers' market is that the produce is local – either produced, reared, grown or cooked locally. The norm is around 30 miles from the market, although this is flexible according the size and location of the market. The person standing at the stall must also be the farmer or someone else very closely involved in the production of the product.
The Farmers Retail and Marketing Association (FARMA) is a membership body that regulates standards at farmers' markets across the country. Having a FARMA certification symbol displayed at the market ensures that the money you are spending is going straight back into the local economy via the local farmer and food businesses. It also gives the customers reassurance of quality and legitimate provenance – a rare treat in the current climate of faceless global food chains.
Not all farmers' markets are registered with FARMA though, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t adhere to these high standards. It just means it’s up to you to ask more questions of the stall holders to find out what you are buying. We have around 750 farmers' markets across the country, around 250 of them are FARMA certified.
For me, as a traveller, I think the joy of a ‘local’ farmers' market is that it defines an area or region. The Devon market will sell completely different products to a Midlands market. A market helps to support and celebrate historical and cultural differences, and can make a shopping experience far more enjoyable than a trudge around a supermarket.
From the beginning of this camping season, all of our Club Sites will now be displaying an Eat Local board. This will give you up-to-date information on where to find great, locally produced food. As well as good food pubs and farm shops you’ll find dates and times of the closest farmers' markets. I’d love to hear your feedback on your favourites.
Here are just a few of mine:
Club Site: Hertford
Hertford I was introduced to the fabulous Hertford farmers' market as part of National Camping and Caravanning Week. The market came to our Hertford Club Site for the day as part of the festivities and to show our members the benefits of shopping at a farmers' market. It was hugely popular, as members devoured spicy sausages, delightful homemade cakes, jams, curries, strawberries and plenty of local ale.
It was great to be among the buzz created by people talking about food, both stall holders and members alike. It’s a bit like the weather isn’t it? Food can provide an endless topic of conversation. As with many farmers' markets there were plenty of free tasters to entice people over and start the food chat.
I watched Club members buying local steaks, sausages and strawberries to take back to their pitches. They certainly seemed a happier bunch of shoppers than the ones I’ve seen in the supermarket.
It was my first time at our Hertford Club Site. I will be honest, seeing how close it was to London, I wasn’t expecting it to feel so rural and hidden away. It really and truly is a total gem in our Club crown. It was also great to shatter any preconceived ideas about how much, and what quality, of local produce would be available - Hertford farmers' market thrives.
The market is helped by the fact it has a proactive and very supportive local East Herts Council. They get involved and put on events to attract more shoppers back to the market each month. Valentine themed markets, recipe days and sausage Saturdays and Curry Weeks keep things new and interesting.
The produce speaks for itself though – and there is a huge variety on offer. I‘ve picked some of my highlights;
Hertford Porkers I can honestly say these were the best sausages I have tasted for some time; just the right amount of ‘crunch’ on the outside, moist meat on the inside and the perfect level of spice. They’re made by Master Butcher Ronnie using a secret recipe passed on to him by an old Hertfordshire Butcher – so he tells me! Using prime cuts of paddock-raised pork and that secret blend of herbs and spices, I can vouch for the fact that these are THE sausages to be found on your barbecue at our Hertford site!
Foxholes Farmshop is a regular at Hertford farmers' market. 3rd generation farmer Catherine Smith has built a popular and successful business selling her produce at the market. On offer are free range eggs, grass-fed, home-bred prime beef, home-reared saddleback pork and bacon and gammon that has been cured in her shop kitchen. For the barbecue try the beef burgers and sausages.
If your Hertford camping dates don’t coincide with market time, then you don’t need to miss out. Foxholes Farm shop is just a couple of minutes away from the site. It has such a huge variety of produce and supplies that there really is no reason to set foot in a supermarket.
I also have to mention the delectable cakes from Linny’s Larder. There seemed to be something extra special about eating a delicate butterfly cake on a campsite. From the looks of things, I wasn’t the only one to indulge, from where I was standing I saw many repeat visitors to her stall throughout the day.
Hertford farmers' market takes place on every second Saturday of the month 8.30am – 1.30pm
Club Sites: Clent Hills, Wolverley, Kingsbury Water Park
Moseley farmers' market is a multiple award winner (it won FARMA’s Best Market award last year). With over 50 stalls, this busy and atmospheric market offers a huge range of locally grown and sourced food.
It is also committed to benefiting the community as any surplus profit made by the market is reinvested in the community. Within a 7-12 mile reach of at least three of our Club Sites, I would recommend Moseley Market as a brilliant holiday day out, for the experience as much as the food. There is even an art market running alongside it. The sights, sounds and smells will give your senses a fabulous day to remember. Who says that we don’t do markets like they do on the continent? They haven’t been to Moseley market.
With so many stalls, you’ll struggle to choose from the fresh produce on display. My pick includes:
Berryfields Farm is based in nearby Coventry. They produce astoundingly good home-reared pork products, smoked bacon, gammon, sausages and the pork pies are legendary.
Coutlerlane Farm are the go-to stall for fresh fruit. Using traditional farming methods they make the most of their ‘perfect’ Staffordshire soil – light and free draining. While you are buying your just-picked strawberries or asparagus, stop and have a chat, and you’ll find out about their passion for conservation; how they have introduced Cannock Chase Healthland back on to their land, as well as creating ponds and hedges to encourage the wildlife back.
Fowlers Forest Dairies prides itself on being the oldest family cheese makers in England. Now into its 14th generation, the Fowler family continue to use the traditional handcrafting skills passed down through the family tree. These age old skills can still be used to innovate though.
Try their new Warwickshire Soft Bard – a subtly sweet fresh and firm, a hi-bred of a brie and a vignotte. Tastings are another advantage of market shopping!
Moseley Market runs every fourth Saturday of the month from 9am – 3pm
Club Site: Tavistock
Held at the heart of this bustling historic market town, the award-winning Tavistock farmers' market is a justly proud display of Devon’s incredible bounty of produce. While not registered on the FARMA scheme, there is still a strict stall-holder policy. Everything sold here has been grown, caught, pickled, baked, smoked and reared by the stallholders selling them to you, and this must be within 30 miles of the market. They would love nothing more than for you to ask them questions about their products – after all it’s their passion as much as their livelihoods.
Only two miles from our Tavistock Club Site, it’s a perfect place to start a day out and buy yourself a top quality picnic from the stalls.
Wessex Pantry make some of the most wonderful pies I’ve had the pleasure of eating. (And I’ve eaten lots of pies this year – I judged at the British Pie Awards a couple of months ago). The hot water pastry is top notch. The steak and ale is second to none.
Bread of Devon Great name. Great Bakers. All of the bread from this family bakery is made from local ingredients wherever possible, and the range includes organic, gluten free rye, wheat and spelt flours. These loaves have got themselves quite a cult following throughout Devon. Get there early.
Take your bread and head along to...
Pyman Pates Traditionally handmade in Tavistock, and containing nothing artificial, these pates are picnic perfect fayre. Try Duck, Liver, Smoked Fish and Game or treat yourself to the Gold Award-Winning Free Range Chicken Liver, Tarragon & Oak Chardonnay Pâté and Smoked Mackerel with Toasted Walnuts Pâté The ingredients are primarily West Country and all free range.
Tavistock market runs in Bedford Square on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month from 9am – 2pm. www.tavistockfarmersmarket.com