Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's time we had real Farmers' Markets

On last night’s RTE Questions & Answers, the woman panellist from the Farming Indo/Ear to the Ground said that Minister for Food, Trevor Sargent, was only focused on the 1% of farmers engaged in organic farming, he’s doing nothing for the other 99%. Minister John Gormless defended Sargent on the basis that this is official Green Party policy. What else did farmers expect?
Official Message to 99% of the farming community from the Green Party: “Go f*ck yourselves!”

Farmers’ Markets:

Why can’t we have proper farmers’ markets, as they do in France, for example.
Every town/village there has a market at least once a week. Dozens of stalls, many local producers, some professional who tour the markets, some amateurs who only attend their local market. Stalls with a wide range of seasonal fruit and vegetables at competitive prices. Ordinary working people, living on a budget, buying their weekly supplies of same. Some specialist producers charging premium prices for organic etc, but the majority are pitched at thrifty housewives.

In the larger French towns/cities there are permanent halles, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of stalls catering for every taste and every pocket. A fantastic variety of fresh and cooked foods to suit all palates and purses.

In Ireland, on the other hand, “Farmers’ Market” means elitist, lifestyle shopping for the better off.

There’s a busy “farmers” market every Sunday in the Peoples Park in Dun Laoghaire. A couple of stalls sell spotty, over-priced organic vegetables. But the majority are expensive artisan food stalls, some ethnic food sellers and a couple of knick-knack sellers.
How many of these stalls are actually run by real farmers? Very few would be my bet!

The market is well attended, mainly by the affluent middle classes and their offspring. It’s a Sunday outing combined with a bit of life-style browsing/shopping to make themselves feel better, mingling among a better class of green. Then they load up into their Chelsea tractors and head off to meet their friends for a bottle of chablis, with no thought as to whether it’s organic, just make sure it‘s chilled.

If you want to experience Green Food Policy in action, this is what it represents.

Let’s ditch the elitism and get real farmers selling non-organic produce at competitive prices to ordinary customers.

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