Well, here we are! My name is Rachel, I am the new manager for Helston Farmers Market. The market on the 4th October will be my third market since taking over, so I thought that it was maybe time that I introduced myself.
As well as running the Farmers Market in Helston I also run a weekly food market in Penzance and run an organic, artisan bakery just outside St Ives supplying guest houses and private orders. Food is a major part of my life, and always has been. I grew up in a farming community in South Wales and my first jobs as a teenager were in kitchens. I also have 3 primary school aged children, so understand the pressures of juggling finances, time and the likes and dislikes that inevitably come from a busy family.
Are Supermarkets really cheaper?
I am a normal Mum. I have too little time and too much to do and would win the admiration of a circus artist, my juggling skills are so good! I run about all week, fitting in all the needs and demands of those around me and yes, I do use Supermarkets (sharp intake of breath from all around me..). They are convenient, they stock food my kids will eat without argument, they are everywhere and cheaper…..or so we are lead to believe.
I am becoming increasingly aware that the markets I am involved with are matching and often beating the supermarkets on price. I was a little shocked at first. Before I became a regular market shopper I always thought that food markets were for the wealthier middle classes. Not a Mum like me, who needs to buy as much fruit as possible for as little money as possible as my children eat enough of it every week to rival an elephant. And that’s just the fruit. Don’t get me started on milk! I was indeed so shocked that I appeared on BBC Radio Cornwall a few months ago talking about it!
Every week I pick up 2 large shopping bags (those bag for life things) full of fruit, vegetables, flowers and cake from a local food market. I have never spent more than £20. I have been picking up organic Khol Rabi, organic assorted coloured beetroot, organic tomatoes, apples, grapes, melons, potatoes, organic broccoli, cabbage, carrots, salad bags with herbs and edible flowers etc etc etc. The variety is amazing. Last week I had to do an online food shop as I was so busy. I noticed that my money did not go as far as usual (I think the words I used were “I feel like I’ve been robbed) and that the fruit and veggies we had were a little bland in comparison. And my husband is still lamenting the lack of boiled fruit cake.
I was chatting to one of the meat producers at Helston Farmers Market last month and noticed that they were selling a fair sized joint of pork for around £12. Good value I thought. I was intrigued though so after the market I popped to a local supermarket to see what they were charging. I found a similar sized piece for around £12. Snap! The big difference though was that the piece of pork at the market was reared, free range just up the road by a farmer I know well who’s children play with my children and who would get every penny I paid for that piece of pork straight into their pocket. The supermarket one, sadly has a less happy tale. Reared in pens in Holland with the farmer only getting a tiny percentage of the money I paid for the pork in their pocket, meaning they have to cram more pigs into smaller spaces and work in volume to make a living.
So, I am left wondering about and questioning the way we do the majority of our shopping. We have all been at the Supermarket and witnessed the poor parent with the screaming child in full melt down mode. Some of us have even been that parent (I have, on many occasions). I rarely see this at markets though. My children love going to markets. They love talking to the producers and experiencing the hustle and bustle that comes with a busy market. So, other than cost, are there other benefits to be had when shopping at local markets. Is it a more enriching, full filling environment?
I feel that the answer to these questions is a big Yes. So, markets don’t have offers and enticements. In my opinion, they don’t need to. I am finding that a trip to the market is quicker than a battle in the Supermarket. We have less food in our cupboards but more food in our fridge. And food that we all really want to eat. Yes, I still use supermarkets. Life without baked beans, wheatabix and loo roll would be difficult. However, I do use them less than I did a few years ago, even though I am busier with work and children than I have ever been.
Back to pork
To me, autumn and roast pork go had in hand. Inspired by my pork investigations I have jotted down a recipe that is an old favourite in our house. I always buy at least a 2.5kg piece of pork. This may seem massive, but it will do several meals, saving time during the week!
I would love to hear from you and what you think on these matters. These are just my musings, I am sure you all have your own.