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TV chefs cook up farmers' market Christmas
Friday, 29 November, 2002

The "buy local food" bandwagon, which we discussed last week, won some extra momentum on Wednesday when two top TV chefs launched a scheme to persuade consumers to shop at farmers' markets this Christmas, writes John Sheard.

TWO of television' best known country cooking stars, One Fat Lady Clarissa Dickson Wright and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, are throwing their weight behind a scheme to boost food sales at farmers' markets this Christmas.

    National Association of Farmers Markets
Backing the 'buy local food' scheme
Both chefs have won huge followings, Clarissa with her latest series, The Countryman, and Hugh with his endearing Riverside Cottage programmes, in which he himself has cooked homegrown produce so sell at local farmers' markets.

Now, quite frankly, the antics of so-called "celebrities" impress me very little - often for the fact that I have absolutely no idea who such celebrities are or what they do, which seems to defeat the object.

But I have enjoyed, even admired, the programmes these two make because they do seem to have a genuine interest in rural affairs, and a real understanding of the problems involved - rare qualities amongst most city-based media people.

So I applauded on Wednesday when it was announced that they are backing the National Association of Farmers' Markets Christmas shopping campaign, which takes up once again the theme I wrote about last week.

The two chefs have also come up with a list of tempting Yuletide recipes which will be distributed free at the markets or can be downloaded from the association's website www.farmersmarkets.net.

With little or no progress being made on promises from the big supermarket chains to offer small farmers a living price for their produce, the farmers' market movement could be the start of something very big.

In France, for instance, farm co-operatives are so powerful that they sit down to negotiate with supermarket bosses as equals - and simply refuse to supply the food if the price isn't right.

For some reason I have never fathomed, British farmers have never got their heads round the possibilities of big co-operatives. But, and forgive me if I'm wrong, there seems to be a similar lack of action on the much smaller issue of farmers' markets here in the Yorkshire Dales.

There may be some, but I have never heard of them, which means that many other people haven't either. So there's not much point in having a market if few people know it's there.

In other parts of the UK, they are thriving for they offer more than just fresh food. They represent an outing for town's folk and, at this time of the year, a family day out in the country is a treat in itself. We could surely make more use of that incentive in the Dales, surrounded as we are on all sides by dense population centres.

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