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?