Friday 12 June 2015

Celebrating 15 Years of Midleton Farmers Market

The Midleton Farmers Market, established on the June Bank Holiday weekend in 2000, has just celebrated its fifteen year anniversary. The market quickly grew and since then it has become the yardstick by which other Farmers Markets are measured. At a recent count, there were approximately 160 Farmers Markets in operation around Ireland, enabling local people to buy fresh local food in season from those who produce it, going some way towards realising my dream of a Farmers Market in every town in Ireland.

By the late 1990's the new Farmers Market movement was gaining momentum in the US. San Francisco was leading the way with a weekly market operating from a small parking lot in the city. The beautiful fresh produce of the area was available for the first time direct from the producer to the consumer. In essence this was the 'democratisation food'. 

The Ballymaloe Cookery School stall
In Ireland at that time supermarkets had changed to a central distribution system, making it very difficult for small food producers to sell their food in local stores. John Potter Cogan, who initially approached me after the vegetable processing plant Frigoscandia closed in the late 90's , was a vitally important part of the initial impetus here in Midleton. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce who with the Midleton Town Council had the vision to see that a Farmers Market (which by the way was quite a revolutionary initiative at that time and even considered by many to be a retrogressive step) would be a positive initiative for the town. It is now well proven that a successful Farmers Market in a town not only attracts food tourists (of which there are an ever-growing number) but also brings extra business and positive publicity which benefits everyone in the community.

Stall numbers grew and Midleton Market quickly became oversubscribed with many farmers and food producers clamouring to be part of a business model that was clearly an excellent prototype.

Several of the original 12 stallholders who started the market are still trading. Ted Murphy, a stalwart from the very first day was there, as was Frank Hederman artisan fish smoker from Belvelly near Cobh (pictured above). Willie Scannell whose floury Ballycotton potatoes are much loved by his ever-growing band of loyal customers. Fiona Burke’s stall with a beautiful selection of Irish farmhouse cheese and Jane Murphy’s Ardsallagh goat’s cheese are still part of the market. So too are David and Siobhan Barry’s seasonal vegetables with a much larger selection than on the first day. Toby Simmonds of The Olive Stall was also there at the outset and his stall still trades beside the market.

It has been an outlet not only for the many artisan producers of the area but also for the high profile food producers who have had stalls at Midleton Farmers Market including: Clodagh McKenna, Arun Kapil of Green Saffron, Declan Ryan of Arbutus Bread and Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse. The market has also been featured in many TV shows including the Ear to the Ground, Nationwide, Rick Stein's Ireland and Clodagh's Food Trails which has seen by viewers across the States and Australia as well as the UK and mainland Europe, helping to position Ireland, and indeed Cork, as a major food destination.

The Market Today

There are now 27 stalls (soon to be 33) at the Midleton Farmers Market. The choice of produce is tantalizing: artisan breads; vegetables, herbs and fruit in season; organic produce; local honey and oysters; fresh fish; wild mushrooms and foraged food; home baking, cordials and pickles; gluten free treats: smoked fish and homemade pate; shellfish; heritage pork products; local ducks, chickens and eggs; farmhouse cheese; pies; freshly made salads, chocolate and long queues for freshly made coffee. Market goers can enjoy a pizza straight from Simon Mould’s wood burning oven, a BLT or pulled pork sandwich from Woodside Farm and much much more.

The Farmers Market provides a livelihood for many and an opportunity to buy local food from small production systems. At a time when a growing number of people realise that our food should and can be our medicine, the Market offers an alternative shopping experience for families who wish to engage directly with those who produce the food they buy to nourish their families. 

Olive and Arun Kapil, the Green Saffron Team
On Tuesday June 6th 2000 the heading of an article by Joe Duggan in The Irish Examiner was: "Market Heralds a New Era in Direct Selling of Natural Produce.

I’m proud to have been a little part of that initiative. Congratulations to everyone at Midleton Farmers Market.

Midleton Farmers Market, East Cork, Ireland is open every Saturday from 9.30am-1pm.