Thursday 1st September was an exciting day for Taunton Farmers Market. Taste of the West Chief Executive, John Sheaves, came to present us with our Gold Award, and Town Mayor, Councillor Vivienne Stock-Williams, also attended the proceedings.
After presenting the award and talking to the press, Mr Sheaves spent a few minutes chatting to me about just why Taunton Farmers Market stood out among the other fantastic markets in the region.
‘What I liked about this market is that it’s not a lot of individual producers focusing on their own stall. Each producer is passionate about their product, as is to be expected, but they still work together, as team-members rather than as rivals.’
Building this kind of cohesion hasn’t been easy for the market. With the recession, the relocation of the livestock market and the Austerity policy of the current government, staying in business and not only keeping the market going, but building it to be better and stronger, has been an uphill challenge.
While nothing can be done to avoid downturns in the global economy, in some ways loss of the livestock market has meant the Farmers Market in its current form is now more consumer-friendly.
‘End-use consumers don’t necessarily want or need to see livestock being bought and sold,’ Mr Sheaves said. ‘Shoppers visit the market to buy goods to take home and use. Here, they get to see the end product at its best. Taunton Farmer’s Market delivers high quality food with the ambiance of a traditional French market.’
‘You could say, it raises the tone,’ he added with a smile, clearly aware that the river Tone runs not far from where we stood.
‘The market is also good for the local economy,’ he pointed out. ‘It brings both regular shoppers and visitors to the town, and they don’t limit their spending to the market alone.’
Graham Wallace, Chairman of the Taunton Farmers Market, agreed.
‘Many local businesses like having the Farmers Market here,’ he said. ‘When people come into town, they spend in shops and cafes as well as at the market. It improves their business, and makes Taunton a venue for both local people and visitors to the area.’
With our third Gold Taste of the West Award now firmly under our belts, it seems we’ve put Taunton on the Foodie Map.
As markets and online shopping begin to creep into farmers markets, things can only get better. Already, it’s possible to order online and collect day-fresh goods on market day. In the future, who knows where this trend will lead? For local farmers, it seems that selling locally, to people who appreciate the produce grown and raised on their doorstep, it’s a great alternative to mass-production, crippling wastage, and lower-quality, chemical-ridden food.
Farmers win. Consumers win. What could be better?