Wednesday, 29 August 2012

This little piggy went to market. Part 2

Farmers' Markets float my boat environmentally and ethically.  Local producers selling their wares directly.  Low food miles.  Less packaging.  Encouraging sustainable farming practices. Bringing back life to town and city centres.


Bath Farmer's Market Photo 1

So why am I so disorganised about remembering exactly whether it's the second or third Saturday of the month that the Farmers' Market is in our town?  If I'm totally honest, it's cost.  I associate Farmers' Markets with premium products, but premium prices.

This summer I had the chance to challenge my assumptions.  I got to hang out at the Bath Farmers' Market on a couple of Saturdays, providing the acoustic entertainment with my little band.  This Farmers' Market is big and bustling (unlike my town's smaller version), with lots of stalls; in fact it was the first Farmers' Market in the UK in 1997, so it's well established.  The Market pays musicians a small variable fee, depending on how busy it is and how many stalls there are.

What did I discover?
  • It's not as expensive as I thought it would be and it's not all premium price organic food.
  • There's enormous variety from fruit and veg, fresh fish and antiques to Vietnamese takeaway food, Portuguese egg custards and fairtrade Kenyan crafts, with everything in between.
  • You get to meet the producers direct, or if not the producers then sellers who really care about the product they are selling.
  • I love the single product stalls - just strawberries, just mushrooms or just truckles of Cheddar cheese.  One quality item on a stall is really refreshing to see, compared to the thousands of product lines we have to choose from in the supermarket.  When you pay more for an item, it's because it's really good quality and you appreciate it all the more. 
  • It makes shopping a pleasurable experience: the smells, the sights and the tastes (lots of opportunities to try before you buy).  And of course the sounds!  Where else can you hear quality music while you shop...keeping music live has got to be a good thing, surely?
  • There are obviously some loyal customers who return every week.
  • Surprisingly the large supermarket next door has a symbiotic relationship with the market.  Shoppers will visit both, which enhances sales for all concerned.
  • When shopping is this much fun, you need lots of self-discipline to make sure you don't overspend (or in my case, spend all the money you have just earned playing at the market!).
When I wrote about markets last week, Lili at Creative Savv commented that when she occasionally shops at the Farmers' Market she thinks of it as "real entertainment value" and noted that "an afternoon at the farmers' market is far cheaper than an afternoon at the movie theater!" and I agree.  I probably wouldn't go once a week but I will definitely make more of an effort to check out our local monthly market.

Do you shop at Farmers' Markets, or do you think they don't fit into a frugal lifestyle? 

8 comments:

  1. I have a favorite roadside stand that I buy fruit and vegetables from every summer. I find that the prices are usually cheaper than the grocery store unless there is a big sale. Also, the grocery stores sell some local products during the summer if you pay attention. We don't have a formal Farmers Market close by so I don't frequent them. However, I have visited markets in Guatemala City that were colorful and very interesting.

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    1. I would love to visit a Guatemalan market...I wonder if there's ever any call for English folk musicians at their markets...!

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  2. That's great! It sounds like you had a great time at the farmer's market! There's only one farmer's market that I know of in our area and it's pretty far away. I've been there once, but would love to go more often.

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    1. There are a lot of farmers' markets in the SW so we're lucky. And after I wrote that post, I heard on the radio that one local town has been having some Artisan Markets with local artists and craftspeople selling their work. They've gone so well they're hoping to introduce Suitcase Markets (selling from a suitcase, not selling suitcases!), Children's Markets etc. Great stuff!

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  3. Here's my thinking on whether or not farmer's markets fit into the frugal lifestyle. Being frugal allows me the opportunity to put some of my money where I want it to go. If I save on haircuts and bulk purchased grains, then I have "extra" money that I can give or spend where I want, and support causes that matter to me. I like keeping small businesses around. I think they are good for the community. So when I can, I frequent a small business instead of a big box store. I like keeping farmers producing and selling locally. Locally grown food is often fresher, better tasting, and doesn't require fuel to truck produce 1000s of miles away. So, when given a chance, I buy local, either at an on-farm stand, at a produce stand along the highway, or at a farmer's market. Sometimes shopping at a farmer's market saves money, but sometimes it's more about the big picture. My two-cents.

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    1. Thanks for those thoughts Lili! It's all about finding a balance that works. I try and operate your kind of thinking too...saving at Aldi, frequenting the 'reduced' sections in our local supermarket, but supporting the markets and farm shops when I can, and buying a fortnightly veg box. And it varies; some months, if there's some unanticipated expenditure, it'll be more Aldi than veg box...

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  4. Wow, you have definitely inspired me to visit our local farmers market. I always assumed it would be really expensive as well, but you have made me decide to give it a go. Unfortunately the only one in my town is only open from 6:30-10:30am on a Sunday morning, which ruins any change of a weekend sleep-in, but it will hopefully be worth it!

    I agree with Lili that good quality food is worth spending money on, and have been trying to get into the mindset of buying organic, at least for the dirty dozen.

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    1. Ooh, early on a Sunday morning...that wouldn't be my favourite time to go shopping either!

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