Country Markets – Traditional, Homemade Social Enterprise

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.

Achieving Affordable and Efficient Public Transport

Wheels 2 Work is a scheme designed to provide affordable transport for individuals who need it. The people that the scheme tends to target and benefit most are individuals who are unemployed or disadvantaged, and who are unable to easily access new jobs, work or training schemes that will further their careers.

The association aims to solve the many issues with available public transport across the UK, in terms of it often being unreliable, inadequate and only available during specific daytime hours. The enterprise claims that the scheme is therefore more successful in more rural areas (as opposed to built-up areas and cities), as that is often where public transport is most inadequate.

The only way to avoid relying on public transport is to own your own private transport, such as driving a car or riding a bike, which is an option that can be too expensive for unemployed or disadvantaged people. Therefore, Wheels 2 Work wants to help those people out, and offer an alternative to both public and private transport, through providing transport for easy rent at affordable prices.

The transport provided is usually either a moped or a scooter, but some schemes even offer bicycle transportation. This transport is only offered to people to provide a way of getting to work, a job scheme, or a training opportunity.

Although many of the schemes around the UK only offer this option to unemployed people, a few schemes have extended to include people who are currently employed, but have difficulty getting into work. Some schemes even offer the transport to people who are over 16 and want to access further education.

Limited access to or unavailable transport can be a major barrier for people trying to gain and maintain employment or training opportunities, and could lead to providing a negative effect, such as confidence issues. This could therefore lead to further detrimental effects, as more people will feel less able to apply for new jobs, work schemes, or training. This is one of the main reasons why the social enterprise understands that it is so important to run this programme.

Their Association is a company limited by guarantee, which acts as a national network for the schemes across the country: every scheme is therefore a member of the Association. It has been running since September 2012, when the Motorcycle Industry Association was awarded a limited grant from the Department for Transport to help facilitate the Wheels 2 Work schemes, and set up the Association as a network.

As the Association relies on the individual schemes across the country, this means that anyone can set up a scheme in their own local area. So, if you want to set up your own, the Wheels 2 Work Association will help you and can offer support and assistance to set it up and keep it running. They also offer a range of consultancy services, which means they are always prepared to help your individual scheme.

The Hidden Tool in Your Tool Box

If you ever get the chance, ask a firefighter to show you what he carries in his turnout pockets.

As this firefighter is pulling out the tools that she has carefully deemed the most necessary and beneficial ones that she wants at her side in the storm of an emergency, ask her to tell you about them, and why she has chosen these specific tools for her pockets. You will come away having learned a lot about firefighting and the firefighter too.

What Are Your Go-To Tools?

Some of the tools in my own pocket include a black ninja-like hood, to be worn under my helmet that provides protection against the intense radiating heat from a fire; a brass pocket spanner for charging the hose with water from the fire hydrant; a multi-tool spring-loaded center punch with a seatbelt cutter, for breaking out glass of a vehicle where a patient needs immediate extrication; a pocket knife and cable cutters for cutting entangling wires and cables that I may encounter as I crawl through the darkness of a building, where the structural elements that hold ceilings and walls together are falling apart or melting away; a hose strap for a quick rescue drag; and tubular webbing attached to a carabineer for a hasty escape if necessary.

I continually pay attention to the tools in my pocket, keeping the ones that serve me and changing them up if they don’t.

In our own lives, we each carry a set of metaphorical tools in our pockets. Many of our tools are ones born out of the necessity of our individual experience. Do we move through life with a positive outlook, fierce determination, appreciation, practicality, fear-based mentality? Maybe our go-to tools are ones we have used to survive not-so-ideal environments we grew up in. Defensive walls or victim consciousness or people pleasing may be what we use to help us get through our present situations.

Whatever our stories, and whatever tools we rely on as we move through our journey, it serves us to go through our toolboxes once in a while to see if our instruments of choice are truly serving us. When we abandon the tools that no longer work and try out new ones, we may be surprised at the shifts that may occur in our experience.

The Elusive Tool

Let me tell you about an elusive tool that I have found very helpful in my own life toolbox. She doesn’t look or feel like one of your traditionally manufactured devices. She does not push, shove, or pry. She’s called Allowing.

Huh?? To my inner firefighter this sounds like a pretty passive, even weak and laughable tool. “Move over Allowing, and let my axe and sledge hammer get this job done!” my inner firefighter bellows.

It was many years ago on a fire academy drill ground that I met Allowing and was able to practice her art, first hand. Like every new fire recruit in a fire academy, I found myself fully suited up in my heavy turnout gear, my SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) on my back, breathing twenty minutes worth of air through my mask, ready to practice going into small, dark, and undesirable spaces.

I was crawling on my belly through a hundred-foot long, pitch-black commercial pipe–feeling the hot sweat that I could not wipe through my mask, dripping down my face and into my eyes. I could feel the constriction of the pipe, as my helmet would bump up against the top of it. My arms were uncomfortably bent to the sides of me, pulling me inch by inch through the blackness with the rhythmic push of my steel-toed boots. There was only slow forward movement here, no room to turn back or even reach my arm behind me. I felt for my academy mates of football player stature.

At about the halfway point of this limiting space, I stopped for a second. I could feel the rising potential of a dark, confined, imprisoned freak-out coming on, even in my self-assured, non-claustrophobic nature. In that moment I knew I had three choices:

• Freak out – not an option, not here, no way!

• Push through – better than freak out, do-able, but I would lose a lot, if not all, of my limited air if I pushed and struggled, or

• Allow it to be.

The Art of Allowing

In that second, I went with allow. I closed my eyes, which made no difference in terms of the blackness in front of me, and invited Allowing in. In my allowing of that moment to be exactly as it was, all was transformed.

The darkness, that seemed to suffocate me, became a safe and comforting cocoon. The confined walls of the pipe stretched into an expansive space that cradled me. As I even allowed myself to feel the fear, the fear dissolved into peace. I continued my journey through the pipe, out through the end, like a baby crawling through a playhouse. When we allow, we invite movement, we open space for change, and we invite transformation.

Where can you invite allowing into your daily experience? I have found that she can transform many a situation. When we allow ourselves to feel fear, for example, it might be uncomfortable at first, or even terrifying. However if we allow ourselves to feel it, we will move through those feelings eventually. Conversely, we may choose to push our fear away. This may work in the interim, until it comes up again.

Can we practice allowing in our every day encounters with strangers? Can we allow people to be who they want to be, with out our judgments pushing against the situation? Can we allow ourselves to feel our array of human emotions, without pushing them away? When we allow in these ways, we may find ourselves growing in leaps and bounds.

There is a beautiful element of trust that accompanies allowing, I have found. Do we trust that the people, situations, and circumstances that we encounter are there for a reason, or for a lesson for us, or even for our own good? When we practice the art of allowing, we open up space for change and transformation in our lives.

I admit that there will be times when we feel that other tools in our pockets work best in certain situations. The push-pull tools of determination and struggle are often at the top of our tool chest. Perhaps the next time you are pushing and struggling, you will pause and dig a little deeper in your cache, and look for the unassuming tool that patiently waits underneath. Give Allowing a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.