Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Memorandum by the National Farmers' Retail & Markets Association (FARMA) (MARKETS 27)

  1.  The National Farmers' Retail & Markets Association (FARMA) is the representative body in the UK for farmers' markets and direct sales from the producer. It is a member of the Retail Markets Alliance which has made a separate submission that provides an overview about traditional retail markets.

1.1  This submission concentrates on farmers' markets.

  1.2  Farmers' markets have been the chief instrument of a change in the food culture in the UK over the past 10 years. Farmers' markets made local foods visible and accessible to a large number of people, and supported a growing number of farmers and artisan food producers keen to revive food traditions as well as bring new products to the market place.

    "The resurgence of interest in food in UK society is epitomised by the growth of the farmers' market movement ... These trends are seen by some as not just indicative of a renewed interest in the provenance and quality of food but representative of an alternative food system that co-exists with `conventional' systems of farming, food manufacture and retail."

    Cabinet Office, Food Matters, Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century (July 2008)

  1.3  It is no accident that local foods are synonymous with quality foods, and that farmers' markets are identified as places to buy these foods. The attractive concept has needed firm steering from the start so that it did not become diluted with imported goods and traders who have no direct relationship with the foods sold ie wholesalers and middle-men buying from other sources. Rules were put in place that determined what a farmers' market should be; these are checked and policed through a Certification system implemented by FARMA. As a result, people trust farmers' markets and enjoy shopping there because it is a different and rewarding experience.

    "For consumers, farmers' markets offer an opportunity to escape the familiar retail experience offered by the large supermarkets. For producers, they are an opportunity to gain a premium for unique, artisan, home-produced foodstuffs which they may not be able to sell to major retailers owing to scale issues and the process of supermarket buying."

    Cabinet Office, Food Matters, Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century (July 2008)

  1.4  This document calls for farmers' markets to continue to be recognised as special markets, with a framework of rules and an inspection procedure. It calls for this recognition to extend to codification of farmers' markets standards so that Trading Standards Officers can be empowered with regard to improper use of the term "farmers' market".

  1.5  Farmers' markets that are Certified under the FARMA scheme may then ask for some simple privileges which will further support their healthy development such as derogations under signage and planning law.

  1.6  This document calls for national and local government to recognise that this is a fragile, young sector and that the impact of regulation is often disproportionate on farmers' markets.

  1.7  The first successful modern farmers' market took place in September 1997; there are now some 800 farmers' and producers' markets operating in the UK. They have become part of the food vocabulary for food writers, chefs and the public at large and are recognised as instruments in many areas of local and national government policy.

  1.8  This document describes how farmers' markets are special. They improve the quality of life of communities and bring people together; they can help to revitalise town and city centres and improve local economies as well as support the livelihoods of farmers and entrepreneurial individuals.

  Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 6, section 2:27 states:

    "Street and covered markets, including farmers' markets, can make a valuable contribution to consumer choice and diversity in shopping as well as the vitality of town centres and to the rural economy."


  2.1  Farmers' markets offer locally produced foods and crafts, sold to the public directly by those who have grown, reared, caught or made them with locally-grown ingredients. Millions of people have welcomed the renaissance of an ancient idea, a market that springs from its community of farmers, artisan food producers and land-based crafts and which offers contact, information and essentials of local distinctiveness. A thriving farmers' market enriches the quality of life of its community.

2.2  Farmers' markets are seen as quality outlets. Unlike general markets, farmers' markets are defined by rules which are supported by Certified standards, established by FARMA. Stallholders must fulfil key criteria (see 3.6). While general markets have been in decline, farmers' markets have grown rapidly over the past decade.

  2.3  Market towns are based on ancient markets at which, for hundreds of years, local farmers regularly sold their produce. From the 1950's, supermarkets grew in size and number and took farmers' produce into their centralised distribution networks, almost stifling the local market for produce. As farmers withdrew, traditional retail markets turned to selling general goods and foods from wholesale markets. Their image suffered and their popularity dwindled.

  2.4  In 1997 the first modern farmers' market in the UK started, referencing successful farmers' markets in North America where standards/criteria had been applied. In the UK, there was growing consumer interest in local foods and alternatives to supermarkets, which farmers' markets thrived on and fuelled. There are now some 800 farmers' markets recorded in the UK, mainly in England and operating mainly on a monthly basis.

  2.5  Farmers' markets are popular with 30-33% of households shopping at least annually (YouGov tracking research commissioned by FARMA 2004-08). Some £250million is spent at farmers' markets annually, money which circulates in the local economy first (New Economics Foundation, LM3). Some 10,000 farmers and small businesses directly rely on farmers' markets for some or all of their livelihood.

  2.6  Benefits of farmers' markets include:

    — enabling farmers and farming to become more visible (linking farmer and consumer, urban and rural);

    — fostering an appreciation of good food that can be produced in each locality (local distinctiveness);

    — enabling many farms to be/remain viable through diversification to produce for a local market;

    — improving local economies, reviving town centres (although not a panacea);

    — reinforcing local identity and building community links;

    — encouraging the development of new skills eg artisan cheese-making, bakers, butchery; and

    — improving the quality of life for local residents.

  2.7  Farmers' markets are different from general markets in that:

    — they are embedded in a supply-side based on local farms and craft-scale producers, who need the markets as much as the markets need them to develop capacity;

    — they work with, and have strong links with, the community they serve;

    — while general markets tend to be managed by local authorities there are many different kinds of farmers' market operators, including local authorities or town centre management but also community groups, farmers' and producers' groups, entrepreneurial individuals and private management companies;

    — they require protection and standards so that they remain distinctive and do not degenerate. Car-boot sales are a good example of a concept debased through lack of standards/regulation; and

    — with a few exceptions, farmers' markets do not integrate well with general markets (see 4.5).

2.8  Summary of Recommendations

  2.8.1  To maintain distinctiveness and consumer trust in the term "farmers' market" (which cannot be trademarked and is open to abuse), FARMA established a Certification programme in 2002. It is voluntary and some 250 farmers' markets are Certified within the scheme. Certification is a very useful tool that distinguishes real farmers' markets and could provide a means for establishing a number of benefits from local authorities and national government to encourage further healthy development of farmers' markets.


  FARMA calls for the term "farmers' market" to be codified by the Food Standards Agency with the standards set by FARMA Certification made compulsory for any market using the name "farmers' market", "producers' market" or similar term, and Trading Standards Officers empowered to enforce.

2.8.2  Disproportionate effect of legislation, targeted at larger businesses, on the micro-businesses and SME's that make up farmers' market operators and stallholders. Examples of this are:

    — Licensing laws which require Individual and Premises Licences or costly Temporary Event Notices.

    — Signage: legislation designed to end the abuse of "temporary" advertising (as displayed in fields alongside motorways) has prompted some local authorities to ban all signage for farmers' markets.


  FARMA calls for recognition of micro-businesses and SME's in legislation to ensure appropriate measures and derogations are included under British and EU law; we suggest a fast-track approval for signage for Certified farmers' markets.

2.8.3  FARMA calls for changes to Planning law, which currently allows up to 14 events a year without the need for planning permission (Class B of Part 4 of the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 1995), and is among the reasons that most farmers' markets operate just once a month.


  FARMA calls for a derogation in the Planning laws to allow up to 60 Certified farmers' markets events a year before planning permission is needed.

2.8.4  Supply-side changes

  New producers—particularly of primary produce such as fruit and vegetables—are needed to boost existing and create new farmers' markets. Council-owned smallholdings have in the past provided land at low cost rents for start-up farmers; these are diminishing in number as they are sold off by Councils.


  Local authorities encouraged to retain and make smallholdings available at reasonable rents, and increase the amount of land on offer under a scheme to encourage new entrants to farming. All agricultural and farming policy decisions should be tested in the light of a policy/strategy for small farms.

2.8.5  Market Charter Rights

  Ancient Market Charter rights can be held by local authorities or individual land-owners and state that no market may be established within six and two-thirds miles of a Charter market site, whether or not there is actually a market on the site, and whether or not an actual Charter document can be found. Charter Rights can be invoked to constrain the development of farmers' markets (eg in Leicestershire) either by disallowing the farmers' market or charging high fees for a license.


  A review of Charter Rights to establish whether this ancient law is needed. Certified farmers' markets should be exempt from the restrictions imposed by Charter Rights and/or a peppercorn fee charged for licenses where they are applied.

2.8.6  Lack of infrastructure for markets and farmers' markets

  Farmers' markets operate in temporary facilities which can make good retail practice difficult, through lack of power supply and running water to the site of the market. Recommendation: local authorities should be required to create designated areas, including appropriate outdoor areas, for markets and farmers' markets which incorporate power supply and running water.

2.8.7  Local authorities support for Certified farmers' markets as community-enhancing activity

  Local authority support is critical for the sustained healthy development of the alternative local foods network and land-based crafts supply to communities. There are social, health and economic benefits (see 3.6) inherent in a successful local farmers' market. While there are some good examples of support, it is often lacking hindering the access to good sites, signage, promotion of local foods within local government and missing the potential local foods as a tourist attraction.


  That a cross-cutting group is established of markets & farmers' markets, local authority representatives, trading standards, environmental health bodies and interested government departments. This should be replicated on a county basis.


  3.1  Farmers' have sold direct to customers for centuries. Market towns grew around markets which were based on food produced locally being sold on regular and frequent market days.

3.2  The growth of supermarkets changed markets and, as supermarkets increased their dominance from the 1950's, most traditional retail food markets declined in popularity.

  3.3  Farmers, particularly those on small, family-run farms who traditionally sold at retail or wholesale markets, have needed to find alternative routes to sell their produce. Direct sales through pick-your-own, farm shops, box schemes (home delivery) have grown in number and sophistication over the past thirty years. For the past 10 years, farmers' markets have provided a new, accessible and attractive means for farmers to sell direct.

3.4  The growth of farmers' markets

    — Interest in the growth of farmers' markets in North America led to the Farm Retail Association (FRA) in 1996 adopting a policy of support for introducing them in the UK. The FRA worked with the Ministry of Agriculture Food & Fisheries (MAFF) to trial the retail concept.— Independently the Local Agenda 21 office at Bath & North-East Somerset Council set out to pilot a farmers' market, and introduced the first modern farmers' market in September 1997. A BBC TV Countryfile programme featuring this Bath market and the growth of farmers' markets in the USA led to a high level of interest from many different potential operators, including community sustainability teams within local authorities.

    — We believe that there are currently around 800 farmers' or producers' markets in the UK. Of these we estimate that 600 are regular (mainly monthly) farmers' markets, of which 250 are FARMA Certified.

    — The combined value of sales at farmers' markets we estimate to be £250million annually. The total value of the direct sales sector we estimate to be £2 billion annually. Some 10,000 farmers and producers take part in farmers' markets, where some 250,000 "stallholder-days" have been created in the last decade.

    — Farmers' markets thrived on and fuelled the growing consumer interest in an alternative food supply chain that bypassed the supermarkets. Farmers have re-skilled as butchers and chefs and a new breed of artisan food producers has been encouraged through a low cost and relatively easy[3] access to the market place.

    — Farmers' markets have been a welcome addition to community life and important to UK tourism.

    — Direct communication with consumers ensures that stallholders at farmers' markets are operating to high animal welfare and environmental standards.

3.5  Background to FARMA

    — In 1998 MAFF facilitated the formation of the National Association of Farmers' Markets (NAFM) with four sponsoring organisations working together (Bath Environmental Centre, FRA, National Farmers Union, Soil Association). NAFM published standards and encouraged the development of farmers' markets throughout the UK.— By early 2001 there were 200 farmers' markets. Almost all closed due to foot and mouth disease in spring 2001, damaging the impetus and confidence of producers and organisers. In 2002 a Certification programme for farmers' markets was introduced by NAFM.

    — In 2003 the memberships of the FRA and NAFM voted to merge to form FARMA. This produced a social enterprise which combined the interests of farmers/producers selling direct with farmers' markets organisers. FARMA is constituted as a not-for-profit co-operative society.

    — FARMA has a membership of 700 of which 100 are farmers' markets managers or management organisations, representing some 250 farmers' market locations.

3.6  What is a farmers' market?

  FARMA sets key criteria that define a farmers' market. These are:

    (a) stallholders should only sell what they produce/make;

    (b) stallholders should be drawn from the locality (typically 30 miles);

    (c) the principal stallholder should be involved in production; and

    (d) there is information at each stall and within the market about the produce sold.

  These criteria mean that:

    — middlemen do not sell at farmers' markets;

    — producers take full responsibility for what they bring to the market;

    — producers are able to take the full margin;

    — a local food and crafts network is catalysed;

    — routes to markets for small farms and smaller-scale producers are enabled;

    — a spirit of enterprise is fostered;

    — consumers benefit from more information about their food and where it comes from; and

    — seasonality improves variety.

  The benefits that farmers' markets bring to participants and communities are:

    — Economic—local businesses are supported; farmers' markets bring footfall which improves other businesses in town centres.

    — Social—farmers/producers working together to create effective retail markets means more co-operation and partnerships; rekindling of food production skills eg development of artisan cheeses.

    — More diverse farming, range of crops and types of livestock enhances biodiversity.

    — Farming viability improved, younger generation stays on the farm to work.

    — Social and educational benefits for a local community—improving the quality of life.

    — A spirit of community is fostered through contacts made at the farmers' market.

    — Shorter food chains mean fresher food, potentially more variety/choices, arguably better quality food.

    — Seasonality means that people buy a greater variety of different foods; and it can be cheaper than the supermarkets.

    — Diet can be improved through this, and through the requirement to cook fresh foods.

    — The dialogue between customer and producer is a powerful mechanism to encourage producers to develop/maintain high environmental and animal welfare standards.

    — Reduced food miles arguably produce an environmental benefit.

    — There is little or no packaging which reduces waste and the environmental impact of disposal.

    — Farmers' markets are part of the tourism offer and catalytic to other food events eg food festivals.

  The diagram above shows the relationship between the local food supply, the community and locations in which farmers' markets sit.

  Farmers' markets come from the grass-roots of their community. The best are deeply embedded in their community. This is the key distinction between farmers' markets and general markets: the people involved as stallholders and the products sold are all related to the place.

  Types of operators include:

    — producer owned organisations (eg Thames Valley Farmers' Markets Co-operative Ltd, Hampshire Farmers' Markets Ltd);

    — specialist private operators (eg London Farmers' Markets Ltd, Made in Stroud);

    — local authorities (eg Waverley Borough Council, North Lincolnshire Council);

    — community voluntary groups (eg Deddington Community Initiative, Moseley Neighbourhood Forum); and

    — local voluntary groups (eg Frieds of the Earth—Maidenhead, Salvation Army—Hadleigh, Essex).

3.7  Who shops at farmers' markets

  FARMA conducts annual consumer tracking research. For GB in 2008:

    — 10% of households spontaneously said they bought food from a farmers' market.

    — 71% of households would like to shop at a farmers' market.

    — 57% of households were aware of a farmers' market in their locality.

    — 30% of households shopped at a farmers' market at least annually.

    — Amongst ABC1's this was 36% and amongst C2DE's this was 24%.

3.8  Standards at farmers' markets

  FARMA sets the standards for farmers' markets which are based on the core criteria described in 3.6. Certification is based on an independent inspection by an accredited inspectorate. Since 2002 this has been SA Certification. (Note that organic production is not a criterion for farmers' markets).

The standards set and the inspection process have distinguished farmers' markets from general markets. Certification is part of a strategy to ensure that consumers have trust and confidence in farmers' markets and that a high quality standard is maintained in all aspects of the market.

  FARMA's Certification is voluntary, and there is a cost to the market for participating.


4.1  How markets have changed in the past decade

  The most significant innovation has been the introduction and strong growth of farmers' markets, representing a return to a tradition almost-forgotten as supermarkets rose to dominate food retailing. At the same time, general markets have seen a decline in fortunes indicating that farmers' markets are providing a real alternative, quality shopping experience that meets expectations and continues to deliver on its promises.

4.2  The number of general markets now stands at around 1,150; the number of farmers' markets is estimated to be 800. There will be change in the number of farmers' markets at any one time as some will not succeed in attracting the customer/stallholder base needed for sustainability. Unlike general markets which tend to be in purpose-built locations and running more than one day a week for most of the day, farmers' markets operate mostly once a month, for four or five hours, at a variety of temporary locations from village halls to car parks, streets and pedestrianised areas, market squares and farms.

4.3  Are there obstacles hindering the creation of more markets?

Obstacles include:

    4.3.1 Lack of local authority support evidenced in:

    — Selection of venues for farmers' markets.

    — Imposition of fees/rentals which become unaffordable. These include charges for licenses, advertising road closure, rent for premises and charges eg for putting up and taking down market stalls.

    — Temporary signage blocked, or made difficult.

    — Lack of investment in outdoor market infrastructure.

    — Lack of co-ordination between different levels of local government and departments.

    4.3.2 Lack of stallholders

    Insistence on standards means that farmers' markets are not open to all-comers; farmers and food producers are eligible to attend along with land-based crafts. The shortage of primary producers (fruit and vegetable growers particularly) might be addressed through recognition that local authority smallholdings offer a low-rent first-step farming opportunity, generally close to town/city boundaries which particularly benefits urban farmers' markets. Council-owed smallholdings have been sold-off over the years and there has been little encouragement for new entrants. This trend should be stopped, and reversed with a policy of active support for new farmers and Council owned farm tenancies.

    4.3.3 Charter rights

    These are a source of conflict where the charter holder stands on an ancient right to constrain, or demand fees from, any market within six and two-thirds miles of the location of the charter market. In most circumstances the prospective farmers' market operator comes to an agreement with the charter holder and pays over a license fee. However, the amount is entirely within the gift of charter-holder. FARMA calls for a review of the legislation that upholds charter rights with a view to its amendment to favour Certified farmers' markets.

4.4  Are there obstacles hindering the successful business of existing market operators and traders?

  Obstacles include:

    4.4.1 FARMA's researches at farmers' markets show that signage is the most important means of reminding and telling potential customers that the market is operating, and its location. Local authorities' present stance on temporary signage is damaging farmers' markets across the country and needs to be addressed urgently.

    4.4.2 Current planning guidelines regarding temporary events is hindering the development of farmers' markets in that they are constrained to being monthly events in the absence of planning permission to extend the number of days of operation. FARMA believes that the potential of farmers' markets will not be realised until the majority are (at least) weekly events. FARMA recommends a review of planning law to allow Certified farmers' markets on 60 days of the year.

    4.4.3 New legislation regarding alcohol licensing has had a disproportionate effect on the availability of local wines and beers at farmers' markets. Market managements have, in some cases, been able to get personal and premises licences; some stallholders have resorted to Temporary Events Notices. However, alcohol is not consumed on the farmers' market premises (other than samples) and the space occupied by stallholders offering local wine or beer is small. FARMA recommends a review of the licensing law to establish appropriate measures for farmers' markets and other temporary events where alcohol is sold but not consumed on the premises.

    4.4.4 Farmers' markets spring from the community in which they operate and, at their best, are embedded in the cultural and political life of the location, and local authority commitment is key to this.

  FARMA recommends that cross-cutting groups are set up by local authorities to ensure that consumer/market/farmer/stallholder/tourism/other community voices are heard and work together.

4.5  What has been the impact of specialist markets, eg continental and farmers' markets, and do such markets integrate successfully with older markets?

  4.5.1  Farmers' markets have revolutionised the idea of markets, giving them a new lease of life. They have enabled local communities to engage with their food supply. They are distinctive markets (supported in this with Certification of standards) and support the local economy with environmental, social and health benefits as well as tourism and other income generators for a town/city. As with market-days of old, they are places where people meet, there is a dialogue about food and experience of the seasons in the foods on offer from local farms and producers.

4.5.2  Farmers' markets provide an opportunity to sell direct and have provided small farms/producers with a route to survive, at a time of increasing supermarket centralisation. As a result an embryonic, alternative and localised food sector is developing.

  4.5.3  Because they are so different, they generally do not integrate well with older general markets. Certification requires inspection and constant vigilance. There is no such quality standard imposed on general markets and the opportunities for consumer confusion—leading to a lack of trust and eventually the collapse of the market—are great. With few exceptions, integration experiments have failed; where they have succeeded the farmers' market has needed its own area in the market and special identification, along with exceptional vigilance on the part of the market management. In general, farmers' markets work better separately located, or operating on different days if in the same location as the general market.


5.1  Social effects of farmers' markets

  There is evidence from Stroud Farmers' Market, Gloucestershire and Brigg Farmers' Market, Lincolnshire that a Certified farmers' market can be instrumental in bringing new life into a community. In both locations the town centre was in decline at weekends as people chose to shop at out-of-town supermarkets. The farmers' markets have been instrumental in bringing people back into the town centre and the increased footfall has benefited other town centre businesses. In Brigg, the number of people coming into town to shop on relevant Saturdays has increased ten-fold since the farmers' market began.

As many villages, towns and cities do not have any other readily available "place to meet", farmers' markets have an important role in providing a focal point and enabling social interaction. Similarly—recognising that farming can be isolated work—farmers attending as stallholders have been able to develop networks in the farming and general community previously not easily available, which has supported their well-being.

As the farmers' markets spring from the community, their success is a useful indicator of the health of a community in its support of the initiative. Not all farmers' markets are successful; perhaps as many as one in ten of those that start-up fail because they do not gain the support of the community in terms of customers or number of stallholders.

5.2  Economic effect of farmers' markets

  FARMA estimates that across the UK, farmers' markets contribute some £250 million into their local economies each year. This is multiplied through increased local employment and use of local services by growing businesses. There are currently some 10,000 market-days per year, with over 10,000 producers involved in farmers' markets across 250,000 "stallholder-days".

Farmers' markets are a first-step for entrepreneurs to start selling foods and crafts, providing the opportunity for sales alongside market research of new products.

  Alongside opportunities for local people to buy locally produced foods and crafts direct from the producers, farmers' markets are featured as a tourist attraction in many locations. Food tourism is a new feature in the UK, made possible over the past 10 years through the availability of truly local foods, a product of their location only, at farmers' markets and farm shops.

5.3  Qualities of a successful market delivering social and economic benefits

    — Good locations, particularly highly visible and well-trafficked town/city centres.— Standards, which unpin and justify the trust put in the concept of "farmers' market". The standards for farmers' markets have been identified and Certified by FARMA procedures.

    — Local partnerships and community support: In his book, "Farmers' Markets: Success, Failure & Market Ecology" Garry Stephenson says "Good [farmers'] markets have a pleasant atmosphere, a diversity of high quality products and close and multifaceted links to their community through a loyal customer base." Stroud and Taunton farmers' markets enjoy the support of their local authority/town centre management. Consultation is frequent and both are engaged in enabling the farmers' market to remain a focal point for the community.

    — Good signage, so that locals and tourists can find the farmers' market easily.

    — Frequency of the market: Stroud farmers' market and Taunton farmers' market are examples where the decision to hold the market weekly has benefited the town, consumers and stallholders in equal measure.


6.1  Does local government support farmers' markets effectively?

  The response must be "mixed", with some local authorities actively engaged and creating excellent farmers' markets eg Waverley Borough Council and Chichester. Others are indifferent or actively hostile. Some urban local authorities have pulled away from supporting farmers' markets, due to understandable budget constraints and difficulty justifying support for the rural community.

There is a need for better dialogue with local authorities so that the benefits of farmers' markets can be better understood and, where practical, they are initiated and continued with local authority support.

6.2  Advantages and disadvantages of local authorities having power to operate markets

Local authorities have a key role in integrating and engaging with the local community; where they support the farmers' market there is a greater chance that it will succeed.

However, much depends on personality and commitment. Managing a farmers' market almost always requires weekend working. It requires an understanding that a farmers' market changes with the seasons and with the ability of producers to come to market with things to sell. It is not a "one-stop, once and for all" process. Where local authority managers have enthusiasm for farmers' markets, they are a very good influence. Where they are indifferent, farmers' markets fail or become more like general markets, with middle-men and imported products.

  Commitment to FARMA Certification can help local authorities to manage markets in that, through independent inspection, features that do not contribute to the overall health of the market can be dealt with. Certification also gives local authority managers a framework and confidence to deal with conflicts.

  Local authorities can have a strong enabling role for other farmers' market operators where they do not manage the markets themselves. In many ways, handing over the reins to an expert and committed team outside the local authority can be liberating—such as in Stroud where the farmers' market is managed by a private company, or in Taunton where it is managed by a co-operative of the producers.

6.3  Evidence of central government support, and could it be improved

  Central government support for farmers' markets has been most welcome and valuable. Farmers' markets have formed part of the strategy for the "reconnection of farmers and consumers" since the end of FMD. Nick Brown and Lord Whitty, in their terms as agriculture minister, have written to local authority chief executives to encourage support for establishing farmers' markets. The current farmers' market Certification programme was developed with the support of a DEFRA grant; this will be joined shortly by a new Producer Verification scheme which has benefited from a DEFRA grant under the Agricultural Development Scheme. DEFRA was among the organisations that actively supported the merger of the National Association of Farmers' Markets and the Farm Retail Association in 2003.

Central government support is still critical to the farmers' market movement, particularly through support of the standards that represent a true farmers' market.

6.4  Could central government make use of farmers' markets to achieve national goals eg social cohesion, health and regeneration?

    6.4.1 Health and nutrition:

      Farmers' markets (and farm shops) will participate in and support the new Change 4 Life initiative.

    Some farm shops are participating in the Healthy Start voucher scheme but no farmers' markets are doing so (to our knowledge). In the USA, the "Women Infants & Children (WIC)" and "Seniors" federal programmes to encourage low-income families to eat more fresh produce involved farmers' markets heavily. FARMA would welcome a discussion about linking Healthy Start with farmers' markets in the UK.

    Direct sales from the producer enable people to buy food that is fresh, top quality and which has flavour. The short food chain from farm to consumer means that there is less time in transit, the food can be harvested when ripe and varieties can be grown for flavour, not for its ability to survive storage and transit. Such food deserves to be promoted by any means possible and FARMA would welcome suggestions for linkages in existing and future government programmes.

    6.4.2 Social cohesion

    Moseley farmers' market in Birmingham provides a good illustration of how farmers' markets can be an instrument in improving communities and fostering social cohesion. The farmers' market was established by Moseley Neighbourhood Forum (supported by Birmingham City Council) and is a social enterprise (Community Interest Company) with all proceeds from market stall fees ploughed back into community projects. The market itself is well-supported with some 50 stalls each month. Kings Norton, also in Birmingham, operates on similar principles.

    6.4.3 Regeneration

    As has been established, farmers' markets need the support of large elements of their community if they are to succeed. Brigg, Lincolnshire and Stroud, Gloucestershire have been cited as examples where this has happened and benefited uderused town centres. However, we would urge caution in considering that farmers' markets will always succeed in difficult social and economic situations.


7.1  Do local and national planning regulations support or hinder the development of farmers' markets?

  The restriction on temporary events has been referred to earlier; it is a barrier to the development of weekly or more frequent farmers' markets. Restrictions on signage likewise have been discussed earlier. There are good examples internationally of local and national regulations that support farmers' markets and their development.

In California, USA, certification of farmers' markets and verification of producers through a state-wide programme backed by legislation has led to high levels of consumer trust in Certified farmers' markets and promoted the rapid development of farmers' markets. Compared to the UK, California has double the number of farmers' markets per head of population.

In Italy, the Ministry for Agricultural, Food & Forestry Policies issued a decree in 2007 to control and define markets reserved for direct selling by farmers, with licensing of towns to create a network of 400-500 farmers' markets by 2010.

7.2  Do Licensing Regulations support or hinder the development of farmers' markets?

  The problems created by the introduction of new licensing laws in November 2005 have been discussed earlier. Their impact has been disproportionate on farmers' markets and other small businesses where alcohol sales form a small part of their activity.

3   FARMA standards for farmers' markets insist that all food producers are compliant with all current food and food hygiene regulations. Back

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