Starting Up with Richard Howlett, market co-ordinator
In an age of identikit supermarkets and faceless online shopping we should be immensely proud that Oxford now hosts an incredible six weekly farmers markets.
These markets support numerous small-scale producers – people with a passion for growing vegetables, rearing animals, baking bread and cooking delicious food. They make our city’s food culture more interesting, more sociable, better for our environment, healthier and tastier. So let’s take a look around our city’s often hidden world of farmers markets.
East Oxford Farmers and Community Market, just off the Cowley Road behind Tesco’s car park, offers shoppers the best food produced within 30 miles sold direct by the farmer or cook every Saturday from 10am to1pm. The market’s Summer Festival on Saturday, August 22 is the perfect opportunity to experience it – with all the usual great local fruit and veg, meat, eggs, honey and bread alongside some special extras.
Local ice cream, organic liqueurs from the Cotswolds, LAM Brewery’s beers and Orchard Cottage’s gorgeous cider will all be available with live music thrown into the mix. An ideal way to bid farewell to summer and stock up for the cooler months.
Heading just beyond the city’s edge, every Saturday morning we can find a remarkable weekly market and café tucked away in Sandford-on-Thames’ village hall. The wonderful Talking Shop community group started the market four years ago with the aim of bringing a shop back to their village. In autumn this year they will do just that. Pop along for the friendliest café in the city serving surely the best bacon bap for miles around.
Moving back into the city down Abingdon Road we can discover South Oxford’s market every Sunday morning at the community centre on Lake Street. It’s a great place to not only pick up all your staples but also enjoy a coffee from the lovely Pukeko van.
Travelling north and one of Oxford’s quaintest streets, North Parade, now hosts a delightful street market on the second and fourth Saturday of every month. With its gorgeous pubs and colourful lights strung across the road, this hidden gem of a lane is an ideal setting for the street food, scrumptious cakes and local fruit and vegetables that adorn the laden tables twice a month. The market has given a new lease of life to a corner of our city that is too charming to be missed.
Carrying on northwards and every Sunday morning the primary school on First Turn, just off Woodstock Road, is home to Wolvercote Farmers Market. Oxford should be especially proud of this jewel.
Founded 13 years ago it was a trailblazer for the city’s local food scene and still provides an amazing range of food and a great little café week in and week out. Heading east and you’ll find yet more – the busy Summertown Market on Woodstock Road every Sunday and further on still you reach Headington’s new weekly Saturday market on New High Street.
If all this sounds great but the words “farmers market” just scream “over-priced” to you, think again. The supermarkets have fooled us into thinking they are always cheaper.
Last year I carried our a price comparison between one of our markets and the supermarket chains. The results explode the myth. £5.71 per kilo for organic broccoli in the chain’s aisles, £3.75 from the market’s veg grower. Six of the market’s free-range, organic eggs came out 18p cheaper than those from the supermarket. Back bacon from the market was £12 per kilo whilst the nearest chain’s best quality rashers rang in at over £16 a kilo.
Not everything cost less, but if you want to eat well and have fruit and veg grown without chemicals, then your pocket – as well as your local economy and environment – can be better off at the market. So get out and discover one this weekend.
For information on all Oxford’s community-run markets see ocmarkets.wordpress.com/