Laughter and luscious luring smells fill the air on an icy-cold Sunday morning at the Riverside market. Cardiff’s farmers’ markets, which offer everything from venison sausages to a friendly chat, have become loved by many but are planning new ways to increase trade.
The Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA), who bridge the gap between producers and consumers, celebrated its 15th year on 17 November.
There are now three weekly farmers’ markets in the city: Roath, Rhiwbina and Riverside. There is also a craft market in Roath and a weekly vintage market on St Mary Street.
Gareth Simpson, RCMA’s enterprise development officer, described the transformation of Riverside’s small local park market into stalls extending over the embankment. He explains: “This is as a result in growing awareness of food.”
Suzie Olsen, Cardiff farmers’ market’s very own “on-ground” market organiser agreed adding: “We have seen a flux in the last two years with people coming and going. The level of quality has become better as time goes on.”
“Explosion in demand”
Trends are not just present in the fashion industry. The cupcake craze leaked into the farmers’ markets, as Simpson reveals: “There was an explosion in demand for stalls for start-up cupcake businesses and general baking,” he adds, “we have to manage the product mix or it really could become a cake market.”
Simpson explains which trend he feels is going to take off next: “There is a growing interest in ‘Street Food’ – hot food to go. It’s a little more complex, you need a busy street or location to begin with.”
It is often easy to overlook the great accomplishment that RCMA has achieved by remaining strong for 15 years. Keen to continue with their success, Simpson explains that the non-for-profit team are always looking for new ways to add value for the buyer and seller.
Simpson discloses: “We are considering how we can increase sales of the producers through using online sales so that they [customers] can pre-order and collect at the markets.”
Are you a lazy weekender? That is no excuse, Simpson says: “Riverside is 10am to 2pm – a morning and afternoon market. It gives a chance for late risers to get there for lunchtime at least.”
The Whitchurch trial
The RCMA have not always been so successful.
They recently held a three-month trial farmers’ market in The Three Elms (The Hungry Horse) pub car park on Merthyr Road.
The trial ended in early November, of this year, due to lack of interest.
Olsen explains: “It was the wrong time of year and a difficult location. It was the combination of bad weather and a hard-to-break small community.”
A welcoming community
The first thing that any visitor to the RCMA markets will notice is the warm, welcoming atmosphere created by the local producers. Eira Ellis-Evans, owner of preserve company Inner City Pickle, explains: “A couple brought me some crab apples from their garden so I have pickled the crab apples and I have made a jelly. I know his wife likes red cabbage so as a thank you they have had a couple of jars.”
It is not just a customer-producer community. Artisan baker Richard Eklot, of family owned Wigmores, explained how the stall-holders work together to help one another, he adds: “Linda’s [of Onllwyn Eggs stall] eggs are used in our bakery and our old bread is bagged up and given to her chickens.”
Many visitors are regular customers and seem to be creatures of habit. Gareth Simpson explains: “Kimi’s, who do the ‘curry breakfast’, has become something of local legend and tradition for many – a way to kick start their Sunday.”
The RCMA has organises events and entertainment at many of their markets. “They are community markets so the community are always invited to get in touch to use a market as a platform for their events or just to add to them,” says Simpson.
Farmers’ markets have become an integral part of Cardiff’s culture and adored by everyone who attends them.
First time market-goer Mary Jones shares her thoughts on the Riverside market: “It’s lively; there are lots of people around. It smells delicious,” pleased with her purchases she adds: “It’s absolutely beautiful.”
So, next Sunday, why don’t you show your support for the markets and experience the fresh produce and warm atmosphere despite the December chills?
Find out what the consumers think of Cardiff’s farmers’ markets in the video below: