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Bakewell Farmer's Market

Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007

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Bakewell Farmers’ Market (Reflections Magazine 2006)

Everything From Best Skate Wings to Swordfish!

`Its Market Charter was confirmed in 1330'

There has been a market in Bakewell since `time immemorial’, and it’s market charter was confirmed in 1330.

Held every Monday, the market once sold butter, pots and pans, corn, horses, cattle, sheep and pigs in various streets of the town.

In 1826 the market was moved to a site in Granby Road to clear the streets and relieve congestion. It was later confined to cattle and sheep with a stall market for household goods.

In recent years the livestock market has moved across the river to the new award-winning Agricultural Business Centre, and this is now the venue for the highly successful Bakewell Farmers Market which provides organic farm and market garden produce of the highest standard.

Recently highly commended in the Observer Food Awards, Bakewell Farmers Market, along with the permanent Farmers Market Shop which is appropriately sited on Market Street, have confirmed Bakewell’s status as one of the country’s premier market towns.

There’s something about a market that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up; the sensual mix of noise, smell, colour, hustle and bustle, evokes feelings of excitement and urgency; the need to rush for the very best vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, clothes, tools or household goods before anyone else beats you to the bargain!

There’s nothing new about markets; five thousand years ago village people would hunt, work the land and make the necessities of life such as tools, pots, weapons and clothes, and as villages expanded so did the need to produce more. Skills became more sophisticated, like wool spinning for bedding, leather tanning for bags, fishing and animal hunting.

From this system of production came the notion of sharing and an idea we’re all familiar with today, bartering.

No money was required with bartering because people exchanged goods according to their perceived worth.

American plains Indians, for example, traded beaver skins for cooking pots, knives, anything that they couldn’t make themselves.

In fact, though everything we buy now has a monetary value, trading with the Indians was in beaver skins, for example, according to Dave Spencer, a Derbyshire living historian, a woollen blanket made in Whitney Oxfordshire had a 6 beaver-skin price tag by the time it had been shipped over to America in the 19th century.

Back in Britain, meeting places (markets) for this form of exchange were held in the open air either on some important religious site, or a main crossroads or village green.

By the time the Celtic tribes ruled Britain two thousand years ago silver coins were being used alongside bartering as a medium of exchange, modelled on the coins of Macedon in northern Greece.

Traditionally, markets have been the focal point of town life, a hive of activity recognised by William the Conquerer who sought to control and make a profit from them.

In 1086 William ordered a charter stating where and when markets could be held. The charter, usually granted to churches or to influential local people, stated who could collect tolls, check weights and measures, enforce law and order and ensure fairness. In return the holder of the charter collected taxes from sales, charges from stallholders and fines from offenders.

With such heavy costs, different towns began to specialise in producing goods they were particularly skilled at, and although specialisation led to less self-sufficiency and greater dependency on traders, it also recognised that local markets were the best way to supply people’s needs.

With growing populations during the 18th century and the so-called ‘agricultural revolution’ farmers increased their production allowing the surplus to be sold at local markets. Derbyshire farmers were no exception and street markets were one of the outlets for their wares.

However during the twentieth century, changing legislation just about wiped out the old-style markets with very few survivors.

It seems recently though that commonsense has returned, allowing ‘Farmers’ Markets’ in the Peak District once again.

Bakewell Farmers Market

`Bakewell Farmers Market is one of those rare gems'

Bakewell Farmers’ Market is one of those rare gems. Generally held on the last Saturday of the month, the Farmers’ Market can be found under cover at the Agricultural Business Centre where there is plenty of parking and easy access.

Farmers’ Markets provide an opportunity to buy food and local products directly from local producers. To qualify as ‘local’, goods should be grown, raised, baked, made or caught within 30 miles of Bakewell, unless there is no business supplying a particular product within 30 miles - as in fish from the sea.

Farmers’ Markets provide the opportunity of helping the local economy and offer an alternative to mass-produced supermarket fare.

The choice and quality at Bakewell Farmers’ Market is truly amazing and rather comforting in this age of fast-food production that seems to disregard care for our environment and our holistic welfare.

A sizeable portion of the stallholders offer free tastings and all must comply with hygiene and safety legislation. Genetically modified organisms cannot be sold and many of the producers are registered as organic.

An organic farm in Ashbourne raises free range animals that graze on open pasture all year round and guarantees that any supplementary feed is certified organic and free from genetically modified ingredients. Derbyshire Dales Organics, who sell their organic meat at Bakewell, produce gluten-free sausages within their wide range of organic sausages.

There are no artificial colours or preservatives to be found at the market, in keeping with traditional methods.

From Staffordshire, handmade cheese from cows grazed on organically farmed pasture as well as award-winning English wine, described by the producers as `clean and fruity with a delightful flowery bouquet’.

The names of the wine are typically English too, like Penny Black, Penny Red and English Rose.

Unusual woodcraft gifts from as little as £6 made out of slices of tree wood from Staffordshire in the form of clocks, to turned bowls, house signs, footstools and affordable solitaire boards.

There’s also a wide selection of hand-made walking sticks.

There are a number of preserves stalls, one boasting that their lemon curd is made with Lurpak butter, another offering pickled mushrooms alongside their apple chutney.

Best skate wings to swordfish are available from the Fresh Grimsby Fishmonger.

Ostrich eggs, each the equivalent of 24 hens eggs, are for sale next to Ostrich burgers and ostrich feather dusters. Nothing seems to go waste.

There’s homemade soap by the slice. This range includes the usual lavender soap to the more unusual where tiny creatures are embedded in the soap!

Cakes, flans and baking are in abundance; I overheard a woman and child discussing which scones they were going to take home for granddad.

Such a wide selection made choosing difficult - wholemeal sultana scones without added sugar vied with savoury ones, and some of the cakes came under the ‘truly scrumptious’ heading.

There are free-range eggs from antibiotic and gm-free hens fed on springwater as well as Aberdeen Angus burgers alongside Dovedale traditional beef.

There’s chocolate made in the Peak National Park; Hot chilli truffles in Belgian chocolate and handmade chocolate teaspoons added to the uniqueness of one stall which threw in a bit of history too -`Cocoadance’, who make the chocolates, inform us that the first chocolate bar was made by Mr Fry in 1847…….

Olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbal teas come from Field House Foods near Derby. This is a family business which produces fine quality fresh herbs in peat-free compost. No pesticides are used for the herbs, some of which are infused in olive oil to make oils for stir-frying, salad dressing or simply to drizzle over food.

There’s a wide selection of mushrooms - including some very popular ones grown near Arbor Low stone circle.

Seasonally there’s Derbyshire honey and beeswax; Christmas decorations and ornaments, candles, including beeswax birthday cake.

The candles are surprisingly affordable at £1.80 for 24.

The market is thronged by leathercrafts, by basketmakers, butchers, and market gardeners alike, and there is an eclectic supply of something for everyone, including hand-made speciality sausages suitable for home freezing from just over the border in Cheshire. And if you’re looking for something a bit different – lamb with Drackensburg cheese, ‘Acropolis’ with feta cheese, Black Pudding sausages and gluten-free pork!

Derbyshire Smokery offers pate and other smoked fish, and there are lots of culinary innovations, for example, smoked prawns alongside the more usual kippers and smoked mackerel.

Refreshments and toilets are all under the same roof and on a level floor, and there is a bar and restaurant and eight ladies loos with hot water, soap and paper towels, something us British don’t always manage to provide!

Farmers Markets are also held in Buxton, Castleton and Belper, and it seems, are once again becoming increasingly popular in the twenty-first century!

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Bakewell Farmer's Market

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