Sunday, 28 February 2010

Otley’s Own Super Market

I make no bones about the fact that I harbor an intense dislike for supermarkets. There is nothing “super” about them as far as I am concerned (apart from their ability to dominate the retail food sector, devastating consumer choice and local economies). Lucky then that my home town of Otley boasts no less than 3 butchers, an artisan bakery, traditional grocers, mobile fishmonger and an independent wine/beer merchants, as well as a thrice weekly market.

However a shopping highlight is always the thriving Farmers’ Market. Held on the last Sunday of each month (between 9.00am and 1.00pm) when the cobbled Market Square, overlooked by the Victorian Jubilee Clock, hosts a vibrant and colourful group of tightly packed stalls, buzzing with punters.

It is recognised as one of the leading farmers markets in West Yorkshire and features more than forty stalls. It’s not just preserves and chutney’s on offer either; you can actually do your full weekly shop here, as well as stocking up on non-perishable goodies to sustain you through the month ahead. There are a wide variety of producers, the emphasis being on fresh local produce rather than exclusively organic goods, although there are a number of really good organic stalls. Almost all products are grown, reared, made or processed by the stallholder - there are no middle men. Also under the Farmers' market Certification scheme, run by FARMA, the produce on sale must originate within 50 miles and, where possible, 30 miles of Otley. Only a couple of specialist producers travel from outside Yorkshire.

One of the biggest queues is always at Langthorne's Buffalo Produce from Northallerton; their wares include Buffalo meat and cheese, but also Venison, Aberdeen Angus Beef, Wild Boar, Iron Age Pig, Lamb and Mutton. The buffalo burgers are amazing; buy them ready prepared to take home and cook, or they always have a batch sizzling on the grill to sell in a bun in case you missed breakfast. Or even if you didn’t as the smell and sight of the big juicy burgers is difficult to resist.

Other regular favorites include:
Kilnsey Park Trout Farm (Upper Wharfedale); fresh and smoked trout, pates & fish products
Swillington Organic Farm (Leeds); organic free range rare breed pork & chicken
Yockenthwaite Farm (Buckden, North Yorkshire); their hand baked granola is delicious
Swaledale Cheese Company (Swaledale); artisan cheeses made using traditional methods
J Stringer & Sons (Malton, North Yorkshire); Organic flour, bread mixes, porridge oats & potatoes, they also sell Yorkshire rapeseed oil
Dumouchel (Leeds); amazing fresh breads and patisserie
Quay Ingredients (Skipton); an extensive range of dried herbs & spices
Curry Cusine (Leeds); a range of custom made spice blends / mixes & pickles to produce authentic Indian meals at home – they have also been known to do live cookery demonstrations in the market
Braythorne Bees (Stainburn, North Yorkshire); different varieties of honey and honey-based products including candles and skin creams
The Organic Pantry (Tadcaster, North Yorkshire); seasonal organic veggies

Garth Cottage Nursery (Northallerton); Specialist growers of culinary herbs and herb-infused oils, salad dressings and vinegars, garlic and chillis. This month they were also selling rhubarb roots and forcing pots
Ledston Estate Game (Ripon); including venison, pheasant, rabbit, hare
Pattacakes; patisserie, puddings & pies
Autumn Harvest mushrooms

It annoys me if people expect the produce at a FM to be cheap – “after all they cut out the middle man”, they argue - or refer to the produce as expensive. These misconceptions are entirely due to society’s conditioning by the supermarkets. In reality food isn’t, and should not be, a cheap commodity to be flogged in BOGOFs. For me these people are missing the point, but incidentally if you do want cheap you can buy 3 lambs hearts for 75p. FMs provide an outlet for producers to by pass the supermarkets, sell direct to the public and get a fair price for their produce. In return the customer gets to build up a relationship with their producers, ask questions, buy the best fresh local produce and enjoy a more interactive and pleasant shopping experience.

I missed the market last month due to a particularly veracious hangover that kept me in bed until well after everyone had packed up and gone home, but I was reliably informed that there was a new stall in town. This month's visit confirmed it; The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company has moved in. My life is now complete!

Farmers' market facts:
The concept was imported from the United States, where they have been in existence for 35 years.

The UK Farmers' market Certification scheme is run by FARMA (National Farmer's Retail & Markets Association) and is inspected by an independent body which assesses member markets to ensure they operate within their guidelines for what makes a farmers' market the real thing.
Farmers' markets in the UK started in the autumn of 1997, the first one being held in Bath. There are now more than 500, with over half of them being certified as operating under terms defined by FARMA.

Otley farmer's Market
Market Square
Last Sunday in the month, 9am – 1pm
FARMA Certified


  1. I've made a note to visit the market at the end of March - suitably inspired by the likes of iron age pig and black pudding!

  2. Good call Phil! I have to say that sounds like the basis of a great Sunday dinner and the Black Pudding is amazing - worth the trip just for that alone. Enjoy!

  3. I love the chilli bomb black pud, hast tha tried it yet?