18 December 1998

Farmers market hits a rich vein…

A FARMERS market is proving highly popular with the public in Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, West Yorks. Held once a month, on a Sunday, in the central Market Hall it is run by the local council supported by a number of organisations including the NFU and the Womens Institute.

The market started in Huddersfield last June, then moved to its present, and better, venue in Holmfirth. The town is visited by thousands of tourists due to its location for the popular television series Last of the Summer Wine.

Produce sold includes venison, lamb, vegetables, eggs, honey, jams, cakes and ice-cream. One farmer attends all the way from Doncaster.

The big demand is for organic produce which sells quickly. On one occasion a free-range egg producer got rid of his entire stock within an hour.

A spokeswoman for the council said they now had 15 stallholders, but needed more. "The demand, especially for organic, is definitely there," she said.

The market was set up with three aims: To provide high- quality, healthy food at reasonable prices; assist the local economy and help the environment. Stalls are available to anyone living within 40 miles and selling produce from their own land.

A local NFU spokesman said they welcomed the market because it provided farmers with an outlet and an opportunity. "There are quite a few farmers now reluctantly looking at semi-retailing and this might help.

It is difficult to judge at the moment because everybody has got so low and there is a lot of despondency.

"We keep bringing it up at our branch meetings and I am sure the young ones will knuckle down and see what they can do," he said.

Farmers markets are popular in America. The first one in the UK started in Bath last year and there are now believed to be nine. Two others have sprung up in West Yorkshire, at Keighley and Bradford.

The Holmfirth Farmers Market (the next is on Jan 17, 1999) has just won the Close to Home Award for helping locals buy food from locals, organised by the UK Food Group.

Tom Montgomery