Farm shops and farmers markets are experiencing increased demand, partly due to the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in some supermarkets in recent weeks.

As supermarkets continue to ration some fresh produce after bad weather in north Africa and southern Europe hit crops, the Farm Retail Association is reporting a brighter outlook for customers of farm shops and farmers’ markets.

Farm shops and farmers’ markets, with their focus on locally produced produce, are still able to offer customers a full range of fruit and vegetables, thanks to their short supply chains.

Among the farmers’ markets benefiting from increased footfall is Lavenham in Suffolk, which has seen a 30 per cent increase in visitor numbers since the start of the year. Fresh vegetables, supplied by Sunshine and Green, a four-acre farm in Cavendish, have seen a real increase in sales.

This growth has been replicated across the region, with Suffolk Market Events seeing increased footfall at all its monthly farmers markets ranging from small towns and villages like Lavenham and Sudbury to the bigger venues like Bury St Edmunds and Colchester.

Farm Retail Association chairman Emma Mosey said: “The current issue really underlines the importance of being able to buy local produce. Our members sell vegetables that they either grow themselves or sourced from nearby growers so when there are issues further afield, they can step into the breach.  Not only does this reduce food miles, it also ensures support for the smaller businesses which play a vital role in food production in the UK.”

“Farm retailers are also happy to pay producers fair prices, even in times of hardship.  They always put both the customer and the producer at the heart of what they do, and because of this, their shelves and customer’s baskets are full.”

The bad weather resulted in supply chain issues for supermarkets with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce and left some supermarket shelves empty, prompting the Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, to suggest that people should focus on eating UK produced seasonal vegetables, such as turnips.

Sandra Woodfall, the farmers market representative on the FRA Council, agreed: “Shoppers should embrace the opportunity to consider the seasons when choosing what to buy.  Farmers Markets offer a great opportunity to do this – not purely fruit and vegetables but also fish, game etc., Some of the growing seasons have been extended in the UK because of tunnel grown items or items grown under glass.

“Many of the real farmers markets in the UK have been running for a number of years now and are working to a set of criteria to help with traceability of items, seasonality, reducing food miles and the person behind the stall being involved in the production of the item.

“Throughout COVID the farmers markets and stallholders, many who are very small businesses, adapted to the changing circumstances and offered home delivery schemes of their items and offered a vital service when people most needed it.” She said footfall in 2023 had remained good, with shoppers wanting to support local producers and learn more about the items they were purchasing.

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To find out more about joining the Farm Retail Association, contact FRA Manager Laura Johnson on 01423 546214 or e-mail LauraJ@farmretail.co.uk