We’re talking about ways for farmers to sell directly to local customers. The heading mentions farmers’ markets, farm shops and pick-your-own, but you could also include cafes, home deliveries, vending machines or even honesty boxes. They’re all ways to get local produce inside local people, helping farmers to avoid exploitative supermarket contracts, reducing food miles and packaging, keeping money in local communities and helping to stop small, mixed, often organic farms being replaced by huge, monoculture farms using pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
What to do
1. Find your local farmers’ market or direct sales outlet
And here is a listing, by county, of pick-your-own farms in the UK.
Or you could just search online for farmers’ markets, farm shops, pick-your-own and the name of your town.
2. Use them
Some people might be attracted to farmers’ markets and direct sales because of the novelty value. Far better to develop relationships with local food producers and wean ourselves off supermarkets, whose policies damage farmers, the environment and ultimately, society.
Farmers / smallholders
Start selling directly
- Talk to the National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) about selling to the public directly (including about insurance). They can help you set up a shop, cafe, pick-your-own, market stall – whatever works for you. Here’s a document with tips on setting up a farm shop.
- Talk to your local authority’s planning department about registration and planning permission for a farm shop. Some things come under permitted development, including the change of use of a building, but not things like selling processed meats.
- Talk to your local authority’s environmental health department about legislation and licensing required for selling direct to the public.
- Contact the Food Standards Agency for advice on food safety, hygiene and labelling, and/or a butchery licence.
- Contact your local building control team to talk about fire safety for a farm shop.
- For any kind of direct sales, contact Trading Standards for trades descriptions, weights and measures and the sale of goods.
Organise a farmers’ market if you don’t have one near you
Talk to FARMA about their farmers’ market certification, to reassure the public that the food sold is produced locally.
A word about prices
It’s unfortunate, but those who want to help create a better world are always charged more than people who don’t. Hence flying is cheaper than driving, which is cheaper than taking the train; recycled products are more expensive than non-recycled; organic is more expensive than non-organic, and so on. For the time being, it’s equivalent to a tax on doing the right thing. That can’t be right, surely?
Having said that, see here, especially ‘Research has shown that much fresh produce is actually more expensive at supermarkets. With organic food, the price difference is striking: meat and poultry was found to be on average 37% more expensive at the supermarket, and vegetables were 33% cheaper at farmers’ markets’.
But even when locally-produced, sustainable food is more expensive, it’s worth a bit extra to do the right thing, isn’t it? And you might have had the ‘organic food is too expensive’ conversation with someone with a plasma-screen TV, a satellite subscription and £150 corporate trainers. In the end, it’s a question of priorities, and what kind of world we’d like to see.
One more point – if local food is more expensive than corporate food, it will mean more money for local food producers, so more money in your local community, which will give more opportunity for people to start other local businesses, one of whom might be you. A rising tide lifts all boats.