We are lucky enough to celebrate another farmers’ market, this time at Birmingham University, joining the ever growing list of farmers’ markets in the Birmingham area. Birmingham University is the first university in the country to obtain a license to hold regular farmers’ markets (1).
With recent news that up to 3,000 traditional shops quit the high street in seven years (2), we must continue to support farmers’ markets and local shops. Rita Exner, the secretary of Farma (Farmers Retail and Markets Association), said farmers' markets were rapidly emerging as a significant, and sometimes crucial, source of income for the country's smaller producers. There are now about 550 regular markets around the country, with more opening and they now earn around £220m a year for the local producers. This figure is dwarfed by the billions earned by the major supermarket chains. However, the rapid growth of farmers’ markets must be evidence of a backlash against the uniformity of supermarkets and increasing public concerns about food miles, quality and traceability.
So I encourage you to go to your local farmers’ market. If you enjoy cooking with the very best ingredients, then you can't beat the fresh local produce on offer. Instead of rushing around the supermarket with your shopping list, why not enjoy a leisurely meander in the fresh air, taking in the atmosphere of a thriving market. Many local markets are held in your high street, giving you an opportunity to support the local shops there, too.
At the markets you can find lovely fresh organic fruit and vegetables and other more exclusive products that are not on your “local” supermarket shelves. There are ostrich burgers, many varieties of mushroom from shitake to horse mushrooms (ask Andy Pryke!), numerous varieties of British apples rarely seen these days, and happy hens’ eggs. All the fresh produce is seasonal and it is grown in the best possible conditions, maximising nutritional content and taste. The time between the moment fruit and vegetables are picked and the moment you eat them is minimal, making them fresher than the supermarket equivalent. So have fun at the many farmers’ markets around Birmingham…
(1) Birmingham University farmers’ market is held on the 4th Wednesday of every month, and there are plans to increase its frequency. For a full list of farmers markets around the Birmingham area turn to page 21.
(2) The Telegraph, 27th December 2007
Photos of Kings Norton Market http://www.duncanross.co.uk/
Maybe Andy’s horse mushrooms! http://www.andypryke.com/pub/BlogFebruary2006