Three new farmers markets starting in the region
PUBLISHED: 16:52 23 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:11 23 March 2019
Suffolk Market Events is launching three new farmers markets this year, helping to bring scores of local producers face-to-face with customers and re-energising town centres.
For the past decade Justine Paul has been running farmers markets first in Lavenham and Sudbury and more recently in Bury St Edmunds.
Along the way she has formed her company, Suffolk Market Events, which also oversees event markets at high-profile occasions such as the Great East Swim and the Bury Christmas Street Fayre. The Taste of Sudbury food festival is also organised by the company.
And these successes have brought recognition and awards.
In 2017 the Daily Telegraph picked Lavenham market as one of the Top 20 farmers’ markets in the UK, while Suffolk Market Events was named one of 2016’s Top 100 Small Businesses in the UK. This year the business is a regional finalist in the 2019 Countryside Alliance Awards.
But Justine is not resting on her laurels. In fact, she is expanding the number of farmers markets she looks after in a big way. In the first four months of this year, she plans to launch three more monthly markets, each with a different story behind them.
In the historic village of Long Melford, she is re-starting the farmers market after it closed several years ago - the first event was last month. In Colchester, Suffolk Market Events is taking over the running of an established farmers market in April and plans to give it a new lease of life.
Also in April, the company is launching Ipswich’s first farmers market to be held on the revamped Cornhill as part of Ipswich Vision’s strategy for reinvigorating the town centre.
First I ask about Long Melford.
“We had a number of people approach us – both traders and customers – who wanted to see the farmers market come back, so we knew it would be well received,” said Justine.
“We never envisioned the market to be a ‘day-out’ market but wanted to fill it with really good stalls, so people can go there and do their shopping”.
Held in the village hall the market launched on February 9 with 26 stalls. Justine says “everyone in Melford has been really enthusiastic about it”.
She added: “When we went door-to-door telling people that the farmers market was returning, everyone was pleased and agreed to put posters up. Shop owners and cafés recognised there was a greater benefit in terms of attracting people to the village.”
“At the first market, I saw groups of people do some shopping at the market, and then head off into the village.”
As for Colchester, Suffolk Market Events is taking control of the farmers market on Friday April 5. The market has been held in the town’s Arts Centre – a converted church on Church St - for over 15 years but now Suffolk Market Events is taking over the running of the monthly event to allow the previous organisers to step down.
“They wanted to move on and are really pleased that the market is going to get reinvigorated. It takes a lot of energy to keep a successful market going. Colchester deserves a good farmers market. It’s been a great market in the past but has lost its profile in the town,” said Justine, who is relishing the challenge of returning it to its former glory.
“I get a kick out of bringing a market back to life, more so, I think, than setting up one from scratch. You can see what needs to be done.
“It’s a great venue but a bit tucked away, so there is a challenge in diverting footfall. But it’s a lovely part of town with some restaurants, and the Mercury Theatre and Jumbo tower nearby – there is so much potential.
“At the moment, the market runs from 9.30am to 12.30pm but we are extending it to 2pm, so that people can do some shopping in town and then come up and get some lunch at the market.”
The first weekend in April promises to be a busy one for Justine as on Sunday April 7, she will oversee the launch of the farmer’s market in Ipswich.
“We are looking to get around 30 producers down there,” she continued.
“We already have a fish and seafood stall and two great meat producers: Heath Farms and Greenacres. We’ve got two local craft ale producers, a gin producer, some local bakers, the Cake Shop in Woodbridge is coming along. We have two vegan stalls, Mena’s Indian Banquet and a company that specialises in Asian dipping sauces.”
Justine says there is a lot of expectation around the market and that she is concentrating on making the market the best it can be.
“I feel really excited about it,” she said.
“I have in my mind, the Cornhill filled with 30 colourful gazebos selling lovely food, some music going on, people having a beer, having some nice plants out there – and just a lot of people enjoying the best of what Suffolk has to offer in the middle of our county town.”
She added: “Part of the objective of us being there is to get people into town, so they also explore other parts – maybe walk down to the Saints and onto the Waterfront - and realise there is a lot of good things to shout about in Ipswich.”
Justine says there are a number of trends that have come together to form a perfect storm and mean there has never been a better time to launch a farmers market.
These include a growing interest in the provenance of food, and wellbeing and health, plus a changing perception that farmers markets do offer good value for the quality of the food that is on sale.
But there is also a growing awareness on the part of councils and town centre managers that a good farmers market gives people a reason to come into town.
“We see an increase in car parking on the days when we hold markets, and shop-owners tell us their takings are up because of the increase in footfall,”she said.
“Councils are now realising that to persuade people to come into the town centre they need to offer an experience.
Shopping is no longer an experience anymore, as most people do it online.”
Justine added: “A good market is a beacon for a town – if it has a good market it tells you the whole town is doing well and makes it a place people want to come to.”