As we have all painfully observed over recent weeks the consequences when large scale food production goes wrong can be disastrous. We cannot survive without these big companies, however it is well worth while supporting small local producers. During 2008 we saw the birth of some great farmers’ markets in Claregalway, Moycullen, and Oranmore. As a regular in the Oranmore Market, I have seen the build-up of regular customers and it is now part of many people’s weekly shopping.
There is an organisation called Country Markets Ltd which was set up in 1946 with the aim of providing revenue and social contact for people who lived in rural areas (it is quite separate from the farmers’ markets that I mentioned above ). Sixty years later this organisation is still going strong with about 50 country markets held in different locations around Ireland. The very first country market opened in Fethard in 1947 where a part of the town hall was rented to people who brought in jams, apple tarts, cakes, bread, eggs, vegetables, and even shrubs for sale. Despite some initial opposition by the local traders it was eventually accepted as a weekly part of the local shopping experience. It has been shown that for every €10 spent in a market there is a net income of €24 for the community. It has also been estimated that trade for other businesses can increase by up to 30 per cent when a market is run.
The Country Markets Ltd organisation is looking for people to start more markets and they can be contacted on (01 ) 7994534 or e-mail [email protected]
The main stipulation for a new country market is that all the goods for sale must have been made by the stall holders; absolutely nothing should be bought in and resold. They will provide help at start up and also provide insurance at a nominal charge. Their preference is to have small markets set up in a local community hall, and God knows with the recent weather patterns this seems an even better idea now than in 1947.
My own quest in 2009 will be to seek out small producers of great food, excellent value everywhere, and of course quality products and service. The days of paying nearly €10 for an average sandwich and an average soup are now dead. Roll on more places that will give you homemade soup and sandwich for €4-€6.