Judging by the increasing number of people that I hear talking about Farmers’ Markets and the importance of buying both seasonal and local produce, it seems that Farmers’ Markets in the UK are enjoying a bit of a resurgence.
One of the main arguments for buying seasonal and local produce is the lower ‘carbon footprint’ of the food, and as true as that is, I’m not about to lecture you on the importance of trying to reduce one’s ecological impact. My enthusiasm for Farmers’ Markets mainly stems from the very simple premise that seasonally- and locally-produced foods are generally more flavourful.
I like going to the Farmers’ Market because I know that the really juicy-looking cut of local lamb is going to taste infinitely better than the slightly sorry-looking cut of fatty lamb from New Zealand being sold in the supermarket. Basically, for me, it’s all about tasty food. It’s that simple (although the environmental aspect is also important).
However, I do have a confession: it took me three and a half years to actually get myself to the St Andrews Farmers’ Market, which runs from 9am-1pm on the first Saturday of every month in the Argyle St car park. I somehow either forgot that it was happening, prioritised sleep or was put off by the rain. When I eventually got my act together and went for the first time earlier this year, it was a delightful discovery!
It’s not the world’s biggest market, but there’s a very friendly atmosphere and there is plenty on offer, including fish, meat, poultry, fudge, home baking, chocolate, condiments and cheese. I’m a huge fan of cheese, and I love the selection of flavoured cheddars available from the Arran’s Cheese Shop (ask for tasters so you can choose your favourite).
Aside from the cheddars, I love the selection of meat on offer – venison, buffalo, pork, beef and lamb are all available in various cuts, and I have a tendency to buy more than I need and freeze the rest, just because I know the meat is good. I will admit that it may be slightly more expensive than buying from a supermarket, but it’s so delicious that it’s worth it.
So if you haven’t quite made it to the Farmers’ Market yet, or if you are just visiting St Andrews and it happens to be the first Saturday of the month, why don’t you go discover the Farmers’ Market? Here are a few tips for getting the most of the market, from my own experience:
- Don’t try and do the market in a rush – you’ll need time to go round the stalls but also to chat to all those people that you know and happen to bump into!
- Make friends with the stallholders – I saw one of the home baking stalls at a charity fair a few months ago and mentioned that I’d seen them at the Farmers’ Market. I ended up walking away with almost all the cakes and biscuits that had been damaged in transit and couldn’t be sold. Win!
- Make sure you bring enough cash, or a friend with enough cash – in a moment of total disorganisation, the first time I went to the Farmers’ Market I completely forgot to stop at the ATM on my way there. Options are pretty limited when you have £3.56 mostly made up in 2p coins. Luckily, I was able to borrow money off the friend I was with. If you do run out, the nearest ATM is about 250m away, just outside the Students’ Association on St Mary’s Place/Market St.
- Have a rough plan – make sure you know what you’re planning on buying, and how much you need, particularly if you’re planning a dinner party or something. This will help you work out how much cash you’ll need, but will also prevent wasting money by over-buying things you won’t use. That said, if you see something that really inspires you (venison carpaccio? That would go great in a salad with apples, honey and goat’s cheese) or there are some great cuts of meat that you can freeze for later, deviating from the plan is fine. Actually, I do that all the time – I’m terrible at sticking to plans. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t yet achieved world domination.
- Ask the stallholders for advice – if you’re unsure what to do with a particular cut of meat, or which foods a particular condiment would go well with, don’t be scared to ask! This is also a great way to make friends with the stallholders (see tip 2).
- Bring your own bags – although most stalls have plastic bags, you might as well save the environment even more whilst buying seasonal and local produce. Canvas bags tend to be sturdier than plastic bags anyway, which is incredibly useful if you’re buying a lot.
- Running late is ok – if you arrive a bit on the late side, although your choice may be limited if you need something specific, you might come across some great bargains. And who doesn’t love a good bargain?
So what are you waiting for? Why don’t you go on a Farmers’ Market adventure?
The St Andrews Farmers’ Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month.