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In your field: Rachel Coates - 'At some farmers' markets I feel like a museum exhibit'

Not only do I trade on farmers’ markets, I am a director of the community interest company which runs our village market.

We live in an area where extra Covid-19 restrictions have been brought in, but we were horrified to receive a communication from our district council advising all farmers’ markets in the area to close because it might cause people to chat to each other while shopping.

 

Fortunately a fellow director is an ex-councillor and knows her way round local bureaucracy. Her first question was ’how a farmers’ market differed from a supermarket and were they about to close all food shops as well?’

 

Unsurprisingly the council official had no answer to this and admitted he had little idea how a farmers’ market ran, further disclosing that he probably panicked. So a few hours later we were back on, albeit with more measures in place.

 

We are living through unprecedented times and who really knows what the right approach is but we do not need panic. We need nimble thinkers with a can-do attitude.

 

As a matter of interest the market, that nearly was not, was a great success and the others I attend are also experiencing a resurgence of interest.


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One particular market I attend is a five hour event and after you have had the proper shoppers in the morning, the afternoon folk appear.

 

This is when I start to feel like I am an exhibit in a museum, as these people are just looking for something to amuse and entertain them on a Sunday afternoon.

 

They will have a good read of the banner at the back of my stall and mutter something like ’oh a vending machine, I have seen one of those on Countryfile’ and amble off, obviously not intending to purchase anything.

 

It would be great to think that increased attendance at markets is down to consumers’ renewed interest in proper local food, which is certainly true, but sadly part is just for something to do.

 

A couple of weeks ago we hauled home our first contract grown maize crop. We are delighted with the quality of the product. We have gone down this route as it is marginal as to whether we could grow it ourselves, given our altitude and being so close to moorland.

 

So far it is working out well, so we will strike maize growing off our own agenda for a while and leave it to the experts. It will be interesting to see if customers notice any difference in the milk and butterfat content. The cows are certainly loving it.

 

On a sad note, I recently heard that Bill Shepard, a Yorkshire Holstein Club stalwart, had passed away. I got to know Bill when I started as club secretary, as he would often ring me to tell me some interesting bits of information.

 

He was immensely helpful to me last year when I was organising the club centenary dinner and Bill clearly read everything that came through the letterbox, such was his interest and passion for farming, even at 96.

 

I was not the only one who would get a call from him when he had read about you in a farming publication or regional paper. An incredible character.

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