Market forces at work in Lavenham

PUBLISHED: 15:24 22 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:02 20 February 2013

Market forces at work in Lavenham

Market forces at work in Lavenham

How do the county's farmers' markets hold their own against the might of town food stores? As Justine Paul of Lavenham Farmer's Market explains, it's all about calling on community support and offering an individual service

How do the countys farmers markets hold their own against the might of town food stores? As Justine Paul, a leading light for Lavenhams monthly gathering of stallholders explains, its all about calling on community support and offering an individual service

Why should people come and use farmers markets?

Suffolk is crammed with amazing produce and I think we should celebrate and support it. A lot of small local businesses work really hard to succeed and by shopping at a farmers market you are instrumental in supporting these local businesses. Going to a good market is a really positive experience. It makes people aware of the food that grows next to them, it teaches children about seasons, about what is growing in the neighbouring field or the garden next door and a good market brings people together on the fourth Sunday of every month, Lavenham Village Hall is packed full of locals and visitors. Going to a good farmers market has an extra dimension that trips to the supermarket totally lack.

You are a leading light in the Lavenham markets.. .how much work goes on behind the scenes?

When I was asked if Id like to take the farmers market on, as daunting as the prospect was, I believed really passionately that the market had to survive and this determination is one of the forces that has helped turn the market around. I put a huge amount of work into the market and believe it is vital this high standard is maintained. If you were to become complacent about the success then I think the foot fall would drop dramatically. I am always writing pieces for local papers, magazines and the radio when people read about the market or hear about it on the radio, they want to be a part of it. I also spend a lot of time making sure the farmers market gets on to local websites! Every month I design the posters and flyers and then cover about a 20 mile radius putting them up on notice boards and dropping flyers in shops, schools, pubs and houses. There is a fantastic group of volunteers in the village who, between them, drop about 500 flyers through the Lavenham letterboxes their help is priceless. Then one week before the market I go out and hammer road signs into the grass verges on all the incoming roads. On the morning of the market I put out banners and more signs and then set the tables out for the actual market (the Scouts do most of this for me, the night before which, again, is a huge help). Once the market finishes, I start again putting away 30 tables, cleaning up the hall, collecting all the banners and road signs in before I start writing pieces for the press for the Monday papers! However there is such good support from the local community and especially from the people who are involved with the village hall, that it does feel like a real team effort.

Where is the produce coming from? And what can people find to buy?

Our market is not just for special treats, for many customers it has become part of their regular shopping where they can get good food at good prices. Almost everything that is sold at the market comes from Suffolk or Essex including many items from Lavenham, Brent Eleigh, Hadleigh and Sudbury. Every month there are over 30 stalls selling a fantastic range of produce including fresh fruit and vegetables, bread from Lavenhams own bakery, Sparling & Faeirs, local beef and pork, home baked cakes and pies, local eggs and game from Long Melford and Lavenham, home produced jams, pates and chutneys, local sausages, smoked cheese, salami and olives, real ales from the Hellhound Brewery in Hadleigh and a lovely selection of plants and flowers. There are also a small number of craft stalls including pottery from Gill Hedge in Sudbury and local artwork. We also have a cafe where you can get a decent cup of coffee and a slice of freshly baked cake or you can go the full hog and order a huge farmers breakfast!

Does your market offer anything out of the ordinary?

There are always fresh ideas at Lavenham the market never becomes stagnant. This month Langham Herbs will be joining us for the first time and last month Hellhound Brewery from Hadleigh was a newcomer. I also like to have different experiences on offer so customers feel inspired by the market. The Swan at Lavenham has done fantastic cooking demonstrations which always attract a crowd and in the warm weather Lavenham Falconry do flying displays on the field outside the Village Hall. In July I am hoping to combine the market with a Heritage Day to celebrate the Big Weekend. There will be local artisan crafters on site woodturners, spinners and willow weavers so people can have the chance to enjoy the market and learn more about the roots of Suffolk life.

There is a lovely Christmas market in Lavenham. Is that going from strength to strength?

There had been a Christmas Street Fair in Lavenham for many years but it had petered out. However this year it was relaunched after a lot of organisation by the local businesses, including Light Up Lavenham and Lavenham Merchants Guild and was a huge success. This year (2011)the Street Fair will be held on Dec 9 and 10.

Lavenham Farmers market is held on the fourth Sunday of every month in Lavenham Village Hall. 10am until 1.30pm. Free entry and free parking.

Further information from Justine Paul

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