TGIUK welcomes James’s back with his interesting insights about living in the UK countryside, which can, as you will read,can seem a long way from the pressurised lives of UK cities and where Farmers Markets are not what you think they are…
My rationale for writing about the farmers market stems from my stay in Northumberland many years ago. For those of you who don’t know this county, it’s perhaps one of the most picturesque counties in England and lies in the North East of England and its northern extremities shares a common border with Scotland. It has a number of lovely towns in that county including Morpeth, Alnwick (Alnwick Castle of Harry Potter fame), Sea Houses – which has lovely fish and chip shops and remains a huge tourist attraction and in the South is Hexham famed for its Hadrian’s Wall (old roman wall which goes round the town). From the North to the South of Northumberland is about 60miles. The population density in Northumberland is very low – in fact people say there are more sheep in Northumberland than humans and I’m inclined to believe that!
I lived in Morpeth while in Northumberland – a town which I can only characterise as quaint. I have fond memories of the place. Perhaps the one that stands out most in my mind is that all the shops in the town centre close on Wednesday afternoons. Now I only happened on this quirk by chance when I went into town to shop one Wednesday afternoon only to find that the shops were all closed. Well you can imagine my surprise – at a time when most supermarkets such as Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s in the South were opening 24 x7, the fact that the shops on Morpeth high street had all closed on the Wednesday afternoon came as a complete surprise to me. It’s perhaps fair to say that this practice was pervasive in the UK years ago but to see it in practice in the 21st century was indeed an eye opener.
It is also in Morpeth that I experienced my first farmers market. A friend of mine suggested we go to the farmers market which was being held on the Saturday. I must confess I didn’t know what a farmers market was although I very much looked forward to it. In my naivety, I had assumed that this is where the farmers all met up and sold their livestock such as sheep, cows, chickens etc. So I was ready – bring it on!
On the Saturday morning, I went to collect my friend and we walked to where the farmers market was being held. As we approached we saw loads of folk mingling but I could not see any livestock. I thought perhaps they were penned to the side of the market – so thought nothing of it. When we finally got to the square still I couldn’t see any livestock – I craned my neck looking round the place wondering where the livestock were being held. I think my friend noticed that I was a touch pre-occupied and wondered what the matter was. So I asked him where the livestock were? He was in stiches and of course the joke was lost on me. When he’d had his fill at laughing at my expense, he explained that there were no livestock at a farmers market instead just farm produce and some famers selling meat but definitely no livestock! Of course I now got the joke and joined in a hearty laugh. To cut a long story short my visit to the farmers market was an eye opener for me – and I now know that these farmers markets go on all over the country and are opportunities for people to sell their own products and find out if there is a market for them.
My visit to the farmers market was not wasted though. I ended up buying ostrich meat which my friend’s wife used in preparing a sumptuous meal for us.
So all in all an eventful Saturday morning outing. Now every time I see a farmers market it brings a wry smile to my face!