Planning for the first farmers market since lock down has been an intense process. There were the questions of course - was I ready to do this? would customers come? How would the market organisers set the event up to keep people safe?
Over the weeks I worked through all of this. I bought a massive thermos to ensure plenty of hot water for handwashing, I worked out how to lay out stock to ensure that no one would be touching it before it got to the customer. I finally got around to setting up a new website, and even a facebook page to go with it. I invested in a contactless payment gadget, and then partly to deal with my own fears about coming out of lockdown I researched masks, and made about 40 of them with the aim of encouraging a few people to have a go at wearing them,
The two days before a market are always hectic. There are doughs to be made for the pastry and for the breads. The jam stock had to be assembled, and checked to make sure nothing was out of date after the months without markets.
The friday is full on. The final doughs are started first thing in the morning. I was out of practice with the sequencing - so I did not finally finish baking, making up the orders for my regular customers and packaging into bags to protect the stock until after midnight. By that time it was too late to check emails.
I was quite glad that we have developed the Joe Wicks habit over the course of lockdown, so I felt I dealt with it all much better than expected.
Market day begins with an alarm at 6am. So I was up, completed loading the car, and then (fortunately) needed to check email to give a new customer directions. It was not until this point that I saw that due to the high winds the market organisers had had to cancel the market. They had emailed at 2pm on friday, which would have been too late to stop the doughs, but could have made the final part of friday a bit less frantic.
After the initial shock my feelings were mixed. I had actually been stressed about doing the event, which even if you make every effort to keep things safe cannot be as safe as remaining at home, but now the question was, what am I to do with all this bread? Can I fit it in the freezers without creating more problems.
I took advantage of having the breads to take a few photos.
My regular customers were fantastic. Most of them were happy to take more than they had planned and fill their freezers.
I saw on the stone farmers market facebook page that some of the other food businesses were having a go at pop up shops, and decided it was time to try to direct a few people to my very new website. The farmers market facebook page flagged up the links and Astonishingly it worked. Half a dozen brand new customers later I have only a hand full of breads to find freezer space for, and we needed these for our own use. If the one remaining customer I am expecting turns up then by next week end I may actually need to make some bread again!
It has been an unexpectedly positive experience!
It does however point to the weakness in our local food system. The farmers markets are great for creating a buzz and bringing people together, At this time whilst we are safer outdoors than in a shop they are a good way to access food safely, but they are outdoors, and that makes them unpredictable.
If people really do want to be able to access local food - and it appears that many people do, then we really do need to make better ways to allow people to order (to reduce waste, and the cost of waste) and to deliver to groups of people.