Shopping at farmers markets.

There is nothing as exciting as setting out in the morning to a farmers’ market with the expectancy of returning laden with the ‘good stuff’; food and drink, plants or soap, that you have bought there. Bags are burgeoning with what you have discovered. Be it fish or wine, bread or mayo, apples or a joint, cheese or eggs. Each item with its own tale with its own credibility.

Lizzie Baking Bird Market Stall

You’ve met each producer, chatted to the farmer, questioned the supplier, so you can be sure of the provenance of what you have bought.

The knowledge that what you have acquired at your ‘local’ market is indeed grown, reared, laid or made within your local community. Bought from the people that you live amongst rather than the large, nameless anonymous supermarket. Unsurprisingly the majority of what you have obtained will be from within a 25 mile radius. It is all about supporting your local economy, the people you live beside. 

If you are a regular, hardened farmers’ market shopper the chances are that you are really concerned about where you buy your food and drink. The place origin of each ingredient in your goods matter.

It is foremost to be certain of the place of origin of what we choose to buy or eat. We want to know that it is grown, or reared or made close by. In my case, you can see the watercress and the pumpkins at the farm, less than 10 minutes away. Eggs that I use in baking, I collect from 5 minutes up the way. As you get closer you can see (and quite likely smell) the chickens – they are out in the field, pecking or squabbling when you turn up. Occasionally you may need to lift a couple off of the van.

The farmer, he can tell you which field the animal lives in and point out his flock of sheep on the fields at Burton Bradstock. When you shake the farmer’s hand, over a deal for your meat, you have seen the hand that has raised his animals, fed them daily, treated them when unwell. Importantly, he has looked them in the eye as they go to be  destroyed. It will be done kindly and humanely. 

Does this level of authenticity matter to you? I think it must do, otherwise why would you shop from the farm shop or markets. Why would you pay a little more for what you get? When you buy cheese you want to know where the milk is from. 

One of my cheese suppliers sends his chap (there are three of them working in his small cheese production unit and one of them is his wife) off each day to collect sheeps’ milk from a local farm. During the early days of lockdown he was still buying the milk to produce cheese, that he had no idea if or where he would sell it, because if he didn’t buy the milk his supplier would go out of business – this is real authenticity to me – local producers supporting smaller local businesses. Back it would come and be made into the beautiful halloumi or cream cheese. In the Spring he and his merry band will be found gathering wild garlic (he collects for me too) and this is made into his delicious soft cheese.

Seafood is caught just off Portland and makes its way to me less than 5 miles away. 

The bread that I bake, the cakes that I make, pastries produced, all of it is made by me at home in my tiny cottage and travels (25 miles is the furthest it goes) to the farmers market to be sold. It is made with Dorset flour (we have a choice of flour producers) made using local cream, milk, dairy. The fruit I used and vegetables are all supplied locally. The cheese comes from the myriad of cheese suppliers – you get the picture. It’s all made by me – I can tell you where the ingredients are from, where I source them, how things are cooked. This to me is the authenticity of my food.

When I come away from the markets with my bags full of gorgeous local gear, I know I’m reducing my footprint and the food will be fabulous and I can’t help but feel a little bit chuffed.

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