It's hard to believe it's been 20 years but here we are!
Farmer Nigel Dyer (Lettuces and Lovage) is one of our original farmers who started selling with us in 1999. He says;
‘The biggest change has been going from a novelty upmarket curiosity to being the mainstay of many people's shopping baskets. Customers do their weekly shop at the farmers market. The markets are a social event with coffee and ready to eat hot food.‘The first market was stressful, amazing and we came home knowing this was the road forward. My immediate response was to redesign and rethink my whole cropping plan for the coming year. Now we consider many of our customers to be dear friends as we watch their children grow and their lives develop. We have all become a part of the social fabric of London.’
Heidi Fermor of Perry Court Farm has also been selling with us since 1999. She has this to say;
‘Farmers markets started at the ideal time, supermarkets had just taken hold putting many small independent farmers, and wholesalers out of business, and forcing many into monoculture and environmentally unfriendly farming. We have been able to keep our wide range of varieties of apples, pears, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables – even add to the number. Most importantly it gives the farmers a unique opportunity to meet the customer on a weekly basis forming many friendships which are essential for we often work in a solitary industry and also an ideal platform for trialing new and old varieties and getting an immediate response’
In 1999 there were no farmers markets in London. Nina Planck, LFM’s
American founder recruited 16 farm businesses for the first Islington
farmers market in June 1999.
‘I started the markets for one reason: to bring all that tasty food closer. But the best part of the markets turned out to be something else: it was meeting farmers and fishermen and beekeepers and others, and hearing their stories. I love talking to men and women and kids who work with their hands outdoors, in nature. It reminds me of my own childhood and I never tire of it.’
We now have 22 weekly markets in London with around 200 farmers and local producers selling across the markets.
Trail Blazing- Farmers Market Firsts
In 1999 heritage varieties didn't exist outside of farmers markets. LFM farmers and fishermen pioneered; Sprouts on stalks. Baby leaf salads, the English cherry season, rare breed meat, purple caulis, edible flowers, baby courgettes, stripy beetroot, purple beans, artisan sourdough bread, colourful eggs, exotic mushrooms, yellow and purple carrots, unpasteurised milk and cheese, seasonal flowers. Hundreds of apple varieties. Real local honey (a big hit for hayfever sufferers.) With very few fishmongers left in London the only place you could find a gurnard or a pollock was at a farmers market. Farmers markets are still the only outlet in London for raw milk which is a huge attraction for many customers.
2007 Foot and Mouth
Panic spread across the nation. London went a bit too far with calls to close farmers markets. We left the decision to farmers if they wanted to attend, kept the markets open and had trays of disinfectant at markets for tyres and footwear. Some farms had major movement restrictions and couldn’t get livestock to grazing or move them off the farm.
Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh; Horse Meat 2013
Memories are short but it won’t hurt farmers markets or the local food sector to remind everyone about the horsegate issue. Supposedly high quality restaurants shared the same suppliers as Wetherspoons. Large food chains can’t give customers the guarantees that a small farm can. We had press, from Panorama to Channel 4 news at our markets.
We fondly remember the short film that was devised to make the point;
We've opened our newest market; Riverside Farmers Market in conjunction with London Bridge City in June. Find it near HMS Belfast. Every Friday 9am-3pm.
High streets may be struggling but farmers markets are on the rise. As long as you want to shop locally, seasonally and buy direct from farmers, fishermen, bakers and producers, we'll be here. Here's to the next 20 years.
Winter vegetables are delicious!
Here's the winners of our Favourite Stall competiton. We've loved reading all your wonderful comments, thank you for voting.