Region: Scotland and the North
Judge: Clarissa Dickson Wright
Miss Dickson Wright became best known as one half of television’s Two Fat Ladies. A fervent countryside cam-paigner, as well as a cook and author of several books on food, she is currently working on her memoirs.
Scotland’s largest farmers’ market is held every Saturday. It has some 65 producers, selling everything from wild boar and venison to ostrich and water buffalo plus guest producers offering organic beers, breads, chocolates, chutneys and wines. The Crisp Hut even cooks real potato chips while you wait, and The Rose Street Quartet plays lively classical music and jazz.
‘When you have eaten your breakfast at the Stoats Porridge Bar to the tunes of the Scottish fiddle, you can then, against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, go and buy East Lothian vegetables of great diversity, heritage potatoes of different varieties, lovely meat, fish, venison, haggis, and even the soap for your bath.’
Judge: Shaun Hill
Former chef at the Merchant House in Ludlow and Gidleigh Park in Devon (where he was awarded a Michelin star), Mr Hill is the director of cooking at the Montagu Arms Hotel in Beaulieu. He is currently overseeing the food at Fortnum & Mason’s new lower-ground-floor wine bar, 1707, as well as opening his latest restaurant, The Glasshouse, in Worcestershire.
winner: Moseley, Birmingham
Moseley Farmers’ Market was established seven years ago. At first, the idea of a market so close to the centre of the city of Birmingham was not supported, but after a four-month trial period, it was well established and has grown from seven to 40 stalls selling their wares, from game to gluten-free produce, on the fourth Saturday of every month on Moseley Green. Organic Smokehouse even supplies The Prince of Wales and The Queen. Run by local volunteers, Moseley has become a thriving farmers’ market with an eco-friendly conscience, providing jute carrier bags and re-usable nappies.
‘Moseley market is emblematic of the farmers’ market success story. Although it is on the edge of a city, a good drive from dairy farms, sheep and cows, it is thriving and well supported by people in the area. There are sections of small-scale, artisan food production, all top notch in their fields. Best of all, there is a chance for those growing and making food to talk directly to those city dwellers who buy it. And vice versa.’
Region: East of England
Judge: Caroline Cranbrook
A fearless defender of small food producers, the Countess of Cranbrook campaigns tirelessly on their behalf. Recently, she successfully stopped the building of a Tesco supermarket in her local town, almost single-handedly.
winner: Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Huntingdon Farmers’ Market is run by producers in partnership with the local council and has very strict rules: all produce has to come from within a 30-mile radius, extending to 50 miles if it cannot be sourced locally. The organisers have worked hard to give it a real community spirit. The 21-stall market, held every fortnight on alternate Fridays, hosts cooking demonstrations and special events such as the ‘Best of Bangers’, where customers vote for their favourite. The market also encourages people to sit and eat, serving Fairtrade tea and coffee.
‘Farmers’ markets create and foster an interest in local food. People are anxious about food and food miles. Combining place and origin of food is what people are yearning for, and is something Huntingdon Farmers’ Market does extremely well. It is consciously trying to reconnect community and revive the heart of Huntingdon, a traditional market town since 1205.’
Judge: Mark Hix
Mr Hix has had an illustrious career as both a chef and food writer. He is currently Chef Director of Caprice Holdings, overseeing Le Caprice, The Ivy (both awarded Michelin stars under his direction), and J. Sheekey.
Started in 2001 as a way to provide farmers with a local outlet during the foot-and-mouth crisis, Chepstow today is a bimonthly farmers’ market, taking place on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. The 15 or so stalls attract some 700 visitors on market day. It has become so popular that, during the redevelopment of the local High Street, more space was made for the market, which sells Welsh black beef and cheeses, homemade cakes and chocolates, organic vegetables, and natural skin and hair products.
‘The refreshing thing about Chepstow and other Welsh farmers’ markets is that you truly get a taste of the area. By their very local nature, products rarely go out of the region. Chepstow has lots of fantastic small cheese producers who sell nearly all their cheeses there, so you won’t ever see them in London.’
Judge: Tom Parker Bowles
An author and food critic, Mr Parker Bowles is passionate about local food. His new book, The Year of Eating Dangerously, is a witty but genuinely hands-on account of food from all over the world.
winner: Deddington, Oxfordshire
Also started in 2001 in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis to provide local food to local people, Deddington today has some 45 stalls selling everything from organic beef, lamb, pork, poultry and game to trout, pâtés, apple juice and wine. Held on the fourth Saturday of the month, the market is run entirely by volunteers, who have their own stall beside the farmers. The 2,500 visitors are entertained by music from a street organ, and can sip tea and coffee in the church, or tuck into breakfast in the local pub.
‘Deddington is a wonderful farmers’ market that manages not only to celebrate all the best local produce, but has also breathed life back into an old marketplace. It’s as much a social gathering as it is an exquisite farmers’ market.’
Judge: John Burton Race
This West Country chef received two Michelin stars for his restaurant in the Landmark Hotel in London and another, more recently, in his New Angel restaurant on the quay in Dartmouth. He also starred in the Channel Four series French Leave, in which he swapped life in his busy London restaurant for a cottage in France with his wife and six children.
Held on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month in Bedford Square, in front of the impressive crenellated Town Hall, Tavistock Farmers’ Market has 22 stallholders selling an eclectic array of produce from buffalo meat and milk, wild venison, homemade pies and salmon pâté to ostrich meat, emu eggs and, of course, West Country cider. Accompany-ing this mouth-watering melee is a jazz band, harpist and silver band.
‘Tavistock Farmers’ Market is great because it shows off the very best of local and regional produce. It provides a shop window for the high-quality ingredients available in the South-West and has established itself as a fortnightly social occasion that brings the whole community together.’