The revolution in farm shops and farmers’ markets began about a decade ago. Revolution might seem like a strong term but in many ways, that’s exactly what it was. It was a revolt against the way food had become so homogenous and mass-produced. The supermarkets had taken over, and many butchers and greengrocers had closed. Farmers who wanted to sell their meat and produce often found their prices dictated by the big chains. They had more to offer than that, and decided to do something about it, as well as making sure they received a fair price by cutting out the middleman.
The concept of the farmers’ market already existed in the US, but with many small farmers here, it proved easy to transport the idea. In many ways, it was a return to the old idea of the butcher and the greengrocer, just many of them gathered in one place for a short time, and the farm shop was a natural outgrowth of that.
It gave a farm, or perhaps several farms together, a constant outlet, usually more for meat than produce, although you’ll usually find them selling produce too during the appropriate season.
Why Buy From a Farm Shop
Supermarkets are convenient, a one-stop for all your grocery needs and often more. But farm shops are an excellent place to source your meat. You’ll find that the animals have all been local, sometimes much less than a mile from the shop. They won’t have been intensively farmed, the way so many are in massive agribusiness. That means you know exactly what you’re getting. Talk to the staff and they’ll be able to tell you exactly which farm the meat came from. It will be fresher (or in the case of beef, often aged better before being sold), and you really can taste the difference, giving you a tastier meal.
You’re supporting local businesses, which is important in this age of globalisation. It means a much smaller carbon footprint, and less CO2 emitted into the atmosphere from transportation. Often the food miles are negligible. You become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.
It’s one more stop to make, but if you combine it with a big weekly grocery shopping trip, you’ll see that the extra carbon emitted by your car is next to nothing – you simply have to plan.
The Farmers’ Market
These days there are farmers’ markets of different size up and down the country. You can almost certainly find one near you, but if you’re not sure where, take a look at on a search engine and that will tell you the closest one and also when it’s held – it’s often just once a month.
Again, by shopping at one, you’re cutting down on the food miles involved, as well as buying directly from the producer, which helps him achieve a fair price for his labour.
What’s especially interesting is the way farm shops and farmer’s markets have really taken off in the last few years. It’s an indication that people have become much more aware of the kind of food they’re buying (witness the increase in sales for organic food), and also an awareness of food miles, small local businesses. The carbon footprint factor might not be the biggest one, but it all helps.