This weekend Moffat Farmers’ Market celebrates its 10th birthday. Over that time it is estimated that the monthly market, based in Moffat’s iconic high street, has provided trading opportunities for more than 150 businesses, with more than 100,000 shoppers buying their wares.
Of the 18 original businesses taking part in the first market, three are still trading regularly at it, and the growth of farmers’ markets across Dumfries & Galloway has had a transformative impact on their businesses.
Sarah Burchell, Chair of Moffat Farmers’ Market, was one of those original three traders. She explained:
“When Moffat Farmers Market began in May 2009 Annanwater had been in existence for just over one year. We started selling our lamb at Langholm Farmers Market because we wanted to be able to sell our meat direct to the consumer rather than selling through the livestock marts to supermarkets.
“Over the past 10 years we have increased our direct sales so that we now sell all our meat direct to the consumer, and this is done almost entirely through farmers’ markets. Annanwater now sells three times as many sheep as in 2009 and the business income has increased by a factor of six.
“But it’s not just about business performance. Farmers’ markets give us the opportunity to speak directly with the customer, where we can explain our farming methods as well as talk about cooking; both encouraging people who are less confident and exchanging recipes with proficient cooks. From customer feedback, we soon found that selling hogget and mutton rather than new season lamb was the market that fitted us best, so we changed our business as a direct result of that customer interaction.
“Farmers’ markets are also hotbeds of business support and collaboration, and working with other small food and drink producers has been one of the real successes of the farmers’ market network in Dumfries & Galloway. For example, working with The Little Bakery, we have developed our own traditional mutton pies, consistently lauded as the “best I have ever tasted” by our customers. Because of this incredibly positive feedback our next business development is to be selling these pies hot at a few local music festivals this year and to clubs and pubs for special events.
“Pioneering markets like Moffat have given us trading, marketing, collaboration and product development opportunities that we simply wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s been a great ten years and I’m sure Moffat Farmers’ Market will be around for many decades to come!”
Lockerbie’s pudding experts Saucy Desserts are one of the original businesses who have become established as a direct result of farmers’ markets, and the business has gone through quite a few evolutions since it tentatively began trading at local markets. John Finch commented:
“Our journey into pudding production was a reluctant one. Sarah’s dessert talents were known by family and friends who eventually persuaded her to have a go selling them at Langholm Producers’ Market, coming back delighted and exhausted with lovely comments and nearly £50 pounds! I was not involved at this stage and had no intention of being so, but before I knew it I had been duped into going behind the stall.
“Nowadays Sarah spends most of her time locked in the kitchen making endless streams of cheesecakes and Sticky Toffee Puds and I do the selling at markets and events up and down the country, as well as delivering to shops all over Dumfries & Galloway and beyond.
“Farmers’ markets are the perfect way for new businesses to get started as you learn so much from members of the public and from other traders. As one of the very first, Moffat has always been one of our favourite farmers’ markets and we are delighted to be still part of it and to have contributed to its evolution and grown.”
Allen Henderson of Sulwath Brewers is the last of the three original producers still trading at Moffat Farmers’ Market. He commented:
“We are delighted to be one of the three original Moffat Farmers’ Market producers. This is a fantastic local market that attracts people to Moffat from all over the south of Scotland and the central belt. That it has continued to grow and to create trading opportunities for so many new businesses is a result of the hard work and enthusiasm of the market organisers, and we are very grateful to them.”
The 10th birthday celebrations at this weekend’s farmers’ market will include chef cooking demonstration by local chef Matt Seddon of The Limetree Restaurant Hartfell House, roving tasters, music by Rab Smith and magic by Ryan Stokes. The market will be giving out free 10th birthday tote bags to customers while stocks last. Sulwath Brewers and Steilhead Cider will both be selling special edition bottles to mark the occasion, Saucy Desserts will be going retro with some of their original desserts and Annanwater will be creating two hot dishes showcasing their lamb.
Lorna Young of regional food group DG Food and Drink said:
“The farmers’ market network in Dumfries and Galloway has been one of our region’s big food and drink success stories, creating trading opportunities for both new and experienced food and drink producers, and providing a regular shop window through which our region’s produce can be accessed and enjoyed.
“For the past ten years Moffat Farmers’ Market has been consistently excellent and the market management and collaborative culture established in Moffat has been shared with other markets across Dumfries & Galloway.
“It’s wonderful to see Moffat Farmers’ Market celebrating their first decade, and that the market continues to attract new customers and new traders each month is a testament to its ongoing success.”
Moffat Farmers’ Market takes place from 10am-3pm at Moffat Town Hall on Sunday 12th May.