Whitstable market has had a rough year, what with the weather and economy.
Every Thursday the stallholders set up early morning in Gorrell tank, taking advantage of the window for free parking until the market closes around 1pm.
Shopping there last week, I bought large free range eggs at £1.50 for six from the Badgers Croft Farm stall. The delightful couple with their sheepdog take the time to pack my eggs and enquire after my Mum, a regular at the weekly market. There’s a wool seller with multi coloured balls, household cleaning products and a huge fruit & veg stall with two cauliflowers for £1.50. Then I pop to the bread stall for Cornish pasties with the crispiest pastry ever that melts in my mouth and homemade cherry pies, and then to the spice man Andrew Laurence.
Andrew tells me: “It’s been a very difficult year for the market weather-wise and customer wise, numbers are down.” He sells nut butters, fresh spices, pulses and sauces, and will deliver free if you’re spending over a fiver.
So why is the market suffering so much?
My New Husband commutes – sometimes to Africa – and he prides himself of never having set foot in a supermarket since we got together 20 years ago. And who can blame him, when I do the food shopping!
I too loathe supermarkets; from the minute I set foot in one I feel my energy wilt as much as some of their cabbage leaves. The musak, the queues, and the way they move stuff around – all tactics to get you to buy more.
So why aren’t Whitstablians using the market?
It’s not the case that all markets are suffering. Steve Wood, Board Member of Kent Farmers Markets Association and a regular guest on my SCOFF & QUAFF food show, told me he saw a big surge in visitor numbers last year at his markets across Kent: “People are becoming more concerned about their food and where it comes from. They want fresh, they want seasonal and they are becoming more aware of the importance of supporting Kent producers and the hard working stall holders.”
Through the organization I became the very first associate member of the Kent Farmers Market Association. I don’t know if there is any similar organization supporting the Whitstable market but it certainly hasn’t come to my attention in the way other town markets have.
It’s time for stallholders to pull together to promote themselves, and for locals to make the special effort to get there.
I know we all work long hours & some of us can’t get the flexi hours to shop 8am – 1pm on a Thursday but there are lots of weekend markets (see links below). Let’s set a target to have a six-month personal trial of trying not to enter a supermarket or chain? Let me know how you do?
Follow Farmers Markets on Twitter: @KentFarmers www.KentFarmersMarket.com www.KFMA.org.uk . Faversham www.swale.gov.uk/street-markets. Canterbury – Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 8am to 5pm at St George’s Street, CT1 2SR. Herne Bay – Saturdays 8am to 4.30pm at Beach Street, CT6 5PT