17 years old – West Malling Farmers Market

West Malling Farmers Market was started in 2000 by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council who initially employed a member of staff to run the farmers market.  The Farmers Market was then run for a period of time by Hughmark International until February 2009 when this company went in to Administration.

In March 2009 My Farmers Market put together a proposal to support the operation of West Malling Farmers Market to ensure that the market continued to take place.  The proposal was put together as a number of the producers did not want to see the farmers market close.   West Malling Parish Council secured a small amount of money to ensure that the initial costs of for the road closure was available to ensure the farmers market could operate for a period of 2 years by which time it had to be sustainable and be financially able to support itself.  In April 2009 My Farmers Market Limited took over the management of running the farmers market

West Malling Farmers Market in July 2009

Gradually over the years the farmers market increased the number of stalls attending but continued to have a traditional farmers market feel – this continues in 2017 with a focus still being predominantly on food and drink with a small percentage of craft stalls.  This fits with the original National Association of Farmers Markets criteria (which the farmers market had been an accredited member).  The Farmers Market is currently a member of FARMA in it’s own right.  The farmers market has supported a number of local events which has included the Christmas Light Switch On Events, Community Group Event Day, St Georges Day Parades and Farmers Market month activities.  In 2017 the market regularly has over 35 different producers attending. 

To attend the farmers market the stallholder has to be involved in the production of the item in some way. They should be involved either in the growing ,rearing, catching, brewing, baking or processing of the item. In addition the producer should be based within a 30 mile radius of West Malling or further for products that can’t be sourced as being made locally. Many of the producers supporting West Malling Farmers Market are based within 5 miles of West Malling. The farmers markets really help the local economy and support small businesses.

The farmers market gives an opportunity to talk directly with the producer and to ask them questions about the product they are selling, how it is grown or made or when the item was produced.

The farmers market also offers a pitch space for local charities and groups to promote any special event, service etc., which they would like local residents to hear about.

The farmers market operates an email reminder service on request which gives an update about the farmers market and is sent a couple of days prior to the farmers market taking place

West Malling Farmers Market runs from 9.30 to 1.30 on the 4th Sunday of the month (not the last Sunday of the month). The High street is closed to traffic during the farmers market and there is free parking nearby for those who visit West Malling.

West Malling Farmers Market in March 2017

A number of the stallholders have won Taste of Kent awards or are members of Produced in Kent. Some have also won regional and national awards for their products too. Some of the producers operate loyalty schemes and many producers take orders in advance for their product to ensure the customer gets exactly what they want.

In October 2016 West Malling Farmers Market was announced as the Best Farmers Market In Kent in the Kent Life/Kent on Sunday Food and Drink Awards.  This really was a great achievement as the nominations are made by the public.  In April 2017 the farmers market was also announced as a finalist in the Best Market category of the UK Farm Shops and Deli Awards. 

If you’d like to find out more about what’s available at the farmers market each month you can find us on social media West Malling Farmers Market has it’s own facebook page or if you’re a twitter fan details about the market are tweeted from @mfarmersmarket.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Summer season and jam making 2016

This is our blog so we’d like to introduce ourselves.  Our name is My Farmers Market Limited, a husband and wife small home business.  We wear 2 different ‘hats’. 

The first ‘hat’ that we wear is as an organiser of farmers markets in Kent which we have been doing since June 2000.  We started running farmers markets when they were first being developed in the UK and became involved as we wanted to purchase local produce directly from the producer. 

Our other ‘hat’ is as a jam, marmalade and chutney producer where we use local produce wherever possible.  We’ve been making jams since 2009 and we sell these items mainly at farmers markets and a few other events during the year.   We are registered with our local Environmental Health Department and our premises and the farmers markets have both been inspected by Environmental Health Officers

The beauty of being at different farmers markets is that you meet the farmers, growers and customers who have different fruit and vegetables that we can use in our preserves.  We have customers who bring unusual fruits such as josterberry from their allotment for us to make into jam. 

We also have a customer who brings in grapes from her garden to be made in to grape jelly.  It also means that we get regular updates on how the different crops are coping with the changeable Kentish weather.

Summer 2016 was a variable year for the fruit that we use in our preserves.  During the warm winter plants and trees budded early and then slowed down during a wet spell. 

    The new jam making year normally starts with the soft fruits – strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, red/blackcurrants and we are lucky enough some white currants too.

After the soft fruit  are the different types of plums which are grown locally. 

Violetta Plum is an early cropping plum which many people haven’t heard of, the plums themselves are sold at the farmers market.  We obtain a large quantity for making in to jam all of which we prepare by hand.  

The violetta plum jam has a very loyal following of customers now which makes it very difficult for us to calculate how much fruit we need to obtain to see us through the year with regarding to making and selling the jam.  This year the different plums cropped within weeks and sometimes days of each other which meant at one time customers could purchase Jubilee Plums, Violetta Plums, Edwards Plums and Victoria Plums almost at the same time.  

It was a very busy time for us preparing the fruit – de stoning plums, cooking them etc., Due to a very hot spell the final crop of plums – Marjorie Seedlings didn’t all survive the hot weather and as a result this year we will have limited jars of Marjorie Seedling Plum jam available.

Whilst the Plums were available Greengages also appeared and shortly afterwards Damsons became available too.  

Damson jam is something which is always very popular with our customers and we order a large quantity of damsons from one fruit grower in Meopham Kent – we received the bulk of our damsons in mid September this year. 

De stoning the damsons is a very time consuming job and each year we try to think of a different way to do this to save time.

Our normal source of quinces had reported to us early in the summer that their Quince crop was very low this year so we spent time phoning our contacts to source locally grown quinces. 

Quince Jelly is something we try to make each year and we display a few quinces on our stall to explain how we prepare them and how we make them in to jelly

Our final capture of this year was some Medlars which we make in to Medlar Jelly. 

It’s been very difficult to find the Medlars and once we receive them we leave them to ‘blet’ before cooking them and straining the juice to make the jelly.

We make all our products in very small batches throughout the year. We also produce items if several customers request a certain flavour we don’t already make.  Any extra jars are sold at the farmers market and often to we continue to make them if they prove popular. 

At present we make over 20 different flavours of jam – some traditional flavours others more unique such as pear and chocolate jam.  We currently offer 9 different flavours of marmalade and on average around 15 chutneys/jellies or pickles. 

As a very small business we operate a loyalty card scheme where a customer receives a stamp on a loyalty card for each jar that they purchase. 

The card can be used at any farmers markets or events that we attend.

We are members of Produced in Kent and Keep it in Kent too.