a regular gathering of people for the purchase and sale of provisions, livestock, and other commodities.

somerset, taunton, old photo of market dayScanning through one of my favourite pages on Facebook the other day, I saw a comment by another user that took me completely aback. The thread was discussing how Taunton has changed over the years and how much of its character has been lost by progress.

Of course this is true, and it’s true of many historic towns throughout the UK. As they say, progress has a price. What shocked me, though, was someone complaining that (paraphrasing) ‘Taunton isn’t even a town, because it doesn’t have a market’.

Um, hello? Taunton has at least three regular markets, including the Farmers Market, which take place weekly through most of the year, and more during Summer and leading up to Christmas.

It made me wonder what people consider a market to be, and what basis this comment was made on. Is it the absence of a traditional livestock market? Is it that the individual markets only operate once or twice a week? Is it that there are no permanent stalls?

Of course the Livestock Market, which was one of the oldest in the country, is no longer based in the town. It had its own site with custom-built buildings, but even then it only took place one day a week, and its gates were locked most of the time. It made sense to move it to Junction 24, as it’s better for health and safety, more accessible for the large vehicles which carry the big beasties around, and easier to reach from a wider area.

Most of the local towns, if they have a market at all, operate it once a week. This is especially true in the case of a farmers market. One of the most wonderful things about a farmers market is that the goods are sold by the same hands which produce it. There’s a continuity and authenticity within that which you can’t get anywhere else. If those hands are at the market every day, when would they get the time to produce?

Not only that, there’s just not enough business in Taunton to make it viable to operate a daily market. Thus, a market area with fixed stalls would spend most of its time empty, as the livestock market proved. With space at a premium it would be an expensive indulgence which would likely encourage vandalism and anti-social activities. Those things Taunton definitely doesn’t want or need.

I didn’t respond to the commenter on Facebook; my comment would no doubt have become a rant. It would be nice, though, if people took notice of what is going on in Taunton.

Taunton-marketTaunton has a market. More than one. Our Farmers Market has won regional and national awards and its individual traders have also won awards for their exceptional produce and progressive farming methods. As locals we should be immensely proud of that fact.

Where possible we should be supporting small local businesses. Doing so helps them become better at what they do, generates local jobs and boosts the local economy.

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