PUBLISHED: 11:28 05 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013
Home-grown and homemade produce has been championed through Country Markets for more than 90 years. And now it is being sold in shops as well as at the weekly markets. Catherine Every reports
County Markets is a thriving network of about 400 local markets selling homemade baked goods and preserves, home-grown fruit, vegetables, plants and crafts at weekly venues across England, Wales and the Channel Islands.
In the Herefordshire and Wye Valley area there are 11 markets: Bromyard, Chepstow, Coleford, Hay-on-Wye, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Newent, Newnham on Severn, Ross-on-Wye and Usk. Each sells an enticing variety of products and has a loyal base of customers who value being able to buy good quality items sold by the people who made or grew them.
Lesley Thexton is secretary of Coleford Country Market, which is held under The Clock Tower each Friday and Saturday morning. Lesley, who sells her homemade cakes and preserves at the market, joined four years ago, and is proud of what she and the market does. She says: Like many people, Im now more aware of things like food miles and the importance of buying local food as a way of supporting the local community than ever. I like the fact that the market means I can use my home-grown fruit and vegetables in my baking and preserves and sell them to the local community. Many customers comment on how wholesome our food is just like mother used to make.
Now Lesley is one of the pioneers of an exciting initiative from Country Markets. Recognising that a growing number of people would like to be able to access high quality, local and homemade food, market producers across the country are teaming up with local shops to sell their homemade cakes, cookies and preserves there too. The Cooks of Country Markets scheme, as its called, is being supported by the Big Lottery-funded Making Local Food Work project.
Coleford Market preserves are available in two local outlets. The Brockweir and Hewelsfield Village Shop is a community shop that has a sustainable purchasing policy and stocks a huge range of locally-produced items. By doing so its supporting its local economy. As Judy Craven, the BHVS Associations chairman says: A sound economy means a sound community. Judy likes the fact that the Coleford Country Market preserves are homemade on a small scale, often using home-produced ingredients, because they have a flavour, quality and freshness that cant be matched by commercially-made products.
Henrys Cafe in Monmouth is a tea room with a cottagey, old-fashioned feel and which is owned and run by Asanga and Miffy Perera. Henrys stocks a range of local crafts and products, including Coleford preserves. Asanga says: They all add to the ambience and individuality and help to create the overall experience we want to give our customers.
Producers at Ledbury Country Market have just joined the initiative. Claire Pritchard and Angela Reader, two of the cooks involved, are excited about taking their products to a wider audience. Its a great idea, says Angela. I hope it will raise the profile of Country Markets and introduce more people to what it is we do. Claire adds: Selling my products in the market and now in local shops helps to contribute to my household income. Its also flexible enough for me to fit in with my other commitments.
Lesleys, Claires and Angelas comments sum up what Country Markets and Cooks of Country Markets is about. For customers, they are the perfect opportunity to buy local and homemade products. And for producers both existing and potential they are an enjoyable and flexible way to earn extra income.
For details of your nearest Country Market, visit www.country-markets.co.uk. To find out more about Cooks of Country Markets, including how to join your local market and start cooking, visit www.cooksofcountry markets.co.uk. And if you would like to know more about the work of the Making Local Food Work project, have a look at the website: www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk