BACK TO BASICS 15/11/21
IRELAND NEEDS TO GET BACK TO ITS FARMERS MARKET ROOTS Back in the halcyon days of the boom farmers markets were seen as almost a gourmet shopping indulgence with the public treating them as a foodie trend and a place to be seen and hang out. They were tarnished with the rip off Ireland brush as customers just could not get their head around the economies of scale when dealing with quality raw ingredients, strict regulations and the high cost labour of love, never mind supporting local jobs and the air miles saving eco brownie points long before the climate crisis topped the news agenda. . Then the crash came and they were obliterated. I had been involved with helping set up a couple of them too at the time and I recall a lot of explaining to punters as to how traders just about carved an income out of a day in the rain what with loading up a car boot with tables and gazebos and all this after a week of production back on a farm or home kitchen. It takes a certain type of sheer dedication to do this and then have a naive customer say to you that the stuff is half the price in the supermarket and them storming off. Now these markets are coming back somewhat and I was delighted to see one of them flourishing in my area of late. Of course on the continent they never went away you know, they are part of everyday life if you ever get to visit one in say France or Italy. The public there are religious about supporting local growers and food producers and I saw this first hand with my old French restaurant boss dragging me around the stalls as he blitzed the local market at the crack of dawn for the best produce each week. You sniffed the fruit and poked the fish; you got up close and personal with the goods. Okay a small bit of haggling sometimes but that’s all in the fun of the fair especially if you are buying twenty kilo of glistening fresh sea bass. The locals did the same, it is a ritual, you would not dream of going to the supermarket or even regular shops when the market was in town. You did the done thing and went out and supported your rural economy by buying their wares. The traders were trusted, you could count on the produce being as good as it gets. It was a social occasion too, you met your neighbours doing the same thing and it does you good anyway, this is shopping for the soul. Ireland used to be like this with markets in every town and maybe it’s something we need to get back to but for the right reasons. Nothing beats chatting to the person who actually made the product you are buying, there is no middle man or woman, it’s just you the buyer and them the maker/seller. The supply chain does not get any shorter, farm to fork in the true meaning of that mantra. Now that climate change is firmly on the public agenda, by going out and buying a bag of shopping from a farmers market you are making a small contribution to the welfare of the planet. It may not be much but it’s something. So every couple of Sundays Clonmellon farmers market takes place in the border village between Meath and Westmeath and if you are passing by or near the area then give it a shot, it really is worth the time and effort, well done to all for making it happen and for everyone now using it. It is very well managed and promoted and I was very impressed by the variety of stalls, the passion and knowledge of the traders and the sheer quality of the goods on offer. I know what it takes to get markets started and if you have one in your locality, give it a go. Clonmellon is a textbook example of how it should be. With my superb Killua castle venison and nutritious Loughpark raw milk in hand I was away in a hack!