Did you know that you can buy amazing fresh ingredients at your local farmers market? These highly popular events are normally held out-of-doors, in public spaces, and offer wonderful local produce, direct from the surrounding farms and smallholdings. An idea that has really worked for all concerned, the clever farmers market formula is renowned countrywide.

Reliable for selling food that is fresh, often organic and usually at the peak of its flavour these colourful rural gatherings always have a good range of home-produced delicious food available from the multitude of small stalls; the main feature of farmers markets.

The farmers market stalls themselves are usually heaving with meat, game, regional cheeses, vegetables, cider, fruit wines, beer, herbs, fruit, chocolates, free-range eggs, butter, fish, pâtés, honey, specialist breads, pasties, pies, cakes and some ambitious stall holders even sell ready-made-meals.

Customers at a farmers market can ask the stallholders about the goods on display, or request free taste-testers, which increases the level of confidence in the produce and the desire to purchase.

All of this helps to make small-scale, environmentally aware methods of farming and food production more possible because the producer makes a bigger profit than they would by selling through a shop or wholesaler.

The benefits of buying at farmers markets are even more clear-cut.  You are able to source high-quality, flavour-rich produce that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in supermarkets; plus you can enjoy the social buzz of a market day. Market days are certainly a way to catch up on all local gossip!

Farmers markets are held on a regular basis in most country districts, normally on a monthly basis but there is now a growing trend to hold them weekly.

Enthusiasts and supporters fervently believe that holding these markets helps farmers to stay in business, as well as preserving natural resources.

Usually the sort of wholesale prices farmers get for their produce from the profit motivated, large  stores and supermarkets are very low, hardly covering the cost of production. On the other hand those farmers and growers who sell direct to the public, without going through a middle-man, can command much more realistic pricing. This encourages smaller growers and farmers to be more adventurous and produce hard-to-find epicure food.

This said it should be noted that farmers’ markets are not necessarily cheaper than shops if the produce is desirable and of good quality. Slower, more humane methods of rearing livestock for meat and unsprayed fruit and vegetables are more costly to bring to the market place – but for natural food lovers, who are seeking flavour and originality the expense is worthwhile. However you can get bargains, especially if you shop seasonally and are prepared to buy in bulk.

There are over 500 farmers’ markets in this country and one of the best places to find out the dates and times of your local markets is to visit www.farmersmarkets.net; this is an excellent site which lists all the certified farmers markets in the UK by calendar or county.