There are approximately 300 Country Markets across England, Wales and the Channel Islands, which make up a network of people devoted to selling homemade goods and local produce. This network has been keeping these markets open and active for over 90 years, as part of a great co-operative social enterprise. Being part of a nation-wide co-operative offers a support network to these local markets, and helps encourage and expand the small businesses that produce homemade, local goods to sell.
The markets across the UK are usually held weekly, in a variety of venues in various cities, towns and villages. The social enterprise also encourages and support Farmers’ Markets, town markets, as well as agricultural and specialist food shows.
The regular small businesses and individuals who produce and sell the local, homemade produce in these Country Markets are called the Producers, who also participate as Members in this co-operative. Although it is national, the network is organised into more local Co-operative Societies, which are all registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act of 2014.
Anyone over the age of 16 can become a Member, which then allows them to sell their produce in their local Market. The cost of joining is 5p (which is the modern equivalent of a shilling), and everything is then sold co-operatively. This means that the Producers receive payment at the end of each month for all of their sales, minus a small commission for running costs.
The local Producers can sell anything local and homemade – including baked goods, preserves, homegrown fruit and vegetables, handmade crafts, and fashionable produce. These markets help to promote the diversity of these local, homemade produce, as well as to encourage local residents to shop locally in these markets. Additionally, they help to showcase the skills and talents of these local craftsmen, farmers and small businesses.
Through Country Markets, local people and businesses have expanded, bringing more and more local, quality produce to the nation – and particularly so when it comes to the homemade food and homegrown produce. In a new initiative, the enterprise has recognised the Producers of this food and local produce, and launched The Cooks of Country Markets to help encourage these businesses and individuals to operate additionally to the markets.
The demand for homemade food has grown exponentially, as people in the UK are recognising the importance of real food, made and grown by real people. The Cooks are using their own kitchens to bake and make local produce that they can sell within their local communities. Country Markets helps and supports them to sell in their community stores, village and farm shops, and garden centres. This has helped the cooks to earn money additionally to the markets themselves, through producing the homemade goods they love.
Similarly to joining the co-operative, anyone who is interested in cooking and producing local food and produce can join The Cooks, and create some delicious food for people in their local area.
The focus on encouraging local, homemade food and produce doesn’t stop with The Cooks of Country Markets, however; the social enterprise is also involved with the Making Local Food Work Project. This project is a £10million Big Lottery funded programme, which promotes community local food enterprise.
They want to highlight the importance of local food, and show people that it matters and connects us all to the land. The project also supports local farmers, as well as helping communities to learn new skills and build trading systems. The Making Local Food Work Project has helped and supported the markets to keep going, ensuring the sustainability of the co-operative social enterprise.
Additionally, the co-operative has worked with and been supported by other projects and partners, such as the National Farmers Retail and Markets Association (FARMA), the Alliance for Better Food and Farming (Sustain), and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Many of the Country Markets across the UK are thriving, filled with people from their local communities producing, selling and buying local, homemade, quality produce.