Sunday, 6 December 2009

Hylands Park Farmers Market

Still playing stand-in while James completed his weekend bender to celebrate his best friend's birthday, I dragged dear husband along to Hylands Park, to sell our rare breed beef at the farmers market there.

The main house is stunning, as you can see above, but the day began with such a downpour that it was a little difficult to appreciate until later on. We struggled in a particularly comical manner with the delightful gazebo, which nearly blew away much to our neighbour's amusement. Finally though, with the help of the lovely Pauline who runs the market, we were up and running...

But where were the customers?

Unfortunately the rain had well and truly stopped play. Lots of dog-walkers popped by, and we gave them (and their bedraggled dogs!) samples of our melt-in-the-mouth cold roast rolled rib, but who takes their wallet to walk the dog? At around 2.30 it started to pick up a bit, and was busy-ish until 3.30, but sales were slow. Like at Linton, once we'd persuaded people to taste the meat they were much more likely to buy, but it just wasn't somewhere full of people buying ingredients - they were more interested in the cafe or the art galleries at the big house. So, a disappointing take, where the biggest learning was to take a thermos and thicker socks!However, the small band of eight stall-holders were an optimistic lot, and everyone stuck it out for the whole day with lots of good cheer for such a chilly day. Here they are...

The very lovely Made By Cass was right next to us, with beautiful homemade jewellery. I bought a Christmas present for someone but I can't mention it here til after Christmas! Cass and her husband enjoyed our beef tasters and they sent so many of their customers in our direction that we gave them a little thank you treat at the end of the day in the form of a pack of our lovely minced beef. You can find lots of her jewellery online to buy here:

I bought a very delicious peach muffin from the lovely man at Mrs Crumbles Cakes (no website yet - I'll post it as soon as they're up and running).

Stour Valley Smokehouse had absolutely divine tasters of their paprika smoked goat's cheese. The spice gave it a really unusual soft powdery finish on the outside which offset the creamiest goat's cheese I've ever tried - it was more like a really ripe brie! I very stupidly didn't get any before he left. His salmon mousse was pretty special too...

Mcarthy's were selling beautiful bountiful breads and warming soups, as well as naughty viennese fingers and chocolate brownies. Yes we succumbed...

The Giggly Pig knew what they were doing - with a little grill to cook samples of their myriad of flavoured sausages. My favourite though was the faggot... hhhmmmmmm meaty goodness.

The award for Most Cheerful Man of the Day has to go to Essex Larders - his optimism never failed, just like his pies which were a triumph of good traditional fare with a contemporary twist. The 'sexy' pies were truly intriguing...

The very friendly Essex Wildlife Trust were also there, selling memberships. However as the husband is in the picture I took he won't let me put it up!!

So, what we missed in custom was certainly made up for by the cheer and good feeling from everyone who was able to make it out - thanks to everyone we met. Though I won't be volunteering for another outdoor market in a big hurry as I think my feet have only just started to warm up six hours later!

Hylands Park Farmers Market is held every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, at the Stables Visitor Centre. We're not always there though - Jim's next visit is on Sunday 20th December.

Juliet D-H

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Linton Farmers Market

James went off to a wedding this weekend & I stood in, roping in my dear new husband for moral support (and to lift the heavy stuff of course). Yesterday we took some of Jim's fabulous rare breed pork to Linton Farmers Market.

A half day market, it was very busy, with lots of people shopping for Christmas joints to freeze til they need them. We tempted everyone with tastings of a cold roast shoulder, which worked a treat - we sold every joint! Our award-winning sausages also went down a storm. We came away feeling extremely proud of ourselves, particularly since the cashbox told the same story meaning we could carry it home like a trophy.

It was really interesting to experience a farmer's market as a trader, since I'm so often on the other side of the stall. I learned a lot about making sales - there's a very fine line between being too pushy and gently persuading people to purchase for the first time. My experience of being a customer myself made me cautious initially, but I soon realised that people are genuinely interested in our story of local farming, and our family's support of rare breeds really does catch the imagination. The number of repeat customers was really heart-warming, with so many saying that they'd stopped buying anyone else's pork! It helped having two of us working the stall so that we could talk to so many more people. I also needed the mathmatical abilities of my other half as I realised my mental arithmatic is seriously rusty!

Linton Farmers Market is held every first Saturday of each month, from 9.30 to 12.30, at Linton Village College in Cambridgeshire, which is here:
PLEASE NOTE: there won't be a market in January.

Other friendly stall holders included: Artistry In Cocoa, Jane's Cupcakes, Laura's Cakes & Cookies, Cobs Bakery

Juliet D-H

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