Our Support Your Local Trader campaign will highlight central and west London’s special markets and shops. The London Weekly News supports our community in a way which benefits everyone. So we are starting as we mean to go on, by backing the small businesses which give life to the area and earn a living for their owners – as well as adding a special flavour to life for its residents.
BY TOBY PORTER
Notting Hill Farmers Market celebrates its 20th anniversary in September.
Many of its traders have been regulars since it began, when Londoners finally woke up to the fact tasty, homegrown produce was on sale on their doorstep.
Local people are there before 9am queuing patiently for the fish – before the pick of the haul sells out.
Fruit and vegetables come direct from Perry Court Farm, Ted’s Veg and Chegworth Valley. There are cultivated and wild mushrooms, fresh pasta and pestos, asparagus in May, cherries in July.
There is also seasonal flowers from Grange Nursery and a jar of local honey from Bee Friendly.
The seasons dictate when to catch the best produce: peas are coming up in June, cherries in July, apples and plums from August, corn in September, game in October, celery in November, and turkeys in December. There is root veg in January and wild garlic in March.
Its favourite stall this year is Hurdlebrook, which has been producing raw milk and cream from Guernsey cows since the early 1980s. They also produce live and fruited yoghurts, crème fraïche and sour cream, all at their Somerset dairy farm.
Dave Paull is a Somerset born and bred, third generation dairy farmer who has been driving the two-and-a-half hours to Notting Hill for 20 years – pretty much since it started.
“I like the friendliness of the people who come to the market,” he said. “They all like the same things about the market – wholesome food. “It is a long way to come but the market is there. People are more informed about products. There is more demand for what we produce.”
His milk is golden in colour because the Guernseys cannot fully digest the beta carotene in the grass. This gives the unadulterated milk its distinctive colour, texture and taste compared to standard pasteurised and homogenised milk
“In the beginning people worried about the raw milk,” he said. “But in the last five years, things have changed – people want more natural foods.”
Another stall holder at Notting Hill is Nigel Dyer, who grows a vast range of different veg on his smallholding in Cambridgeshire and sells as Nigel’s Lettuces and Lovage.
The 71-year-old has unusual varieties of pepper, potted herbs, bulbs, knobbly marrows, pumpkins and squashes and plump tomatoes.
Nigel has been selling at London farmers markets since the first one opened in Islington in 1999, and cut the celebration cake at the 10th anniversary celebrations in June 2009.
“I used to go to Spitalfields twice a week but selling wholesale got harder and harder,” he said. “When Nina Plank set up London Farmers Markets in 1999 it worked for us. “We had already been going to shows in Suffolk, putting up food stalls and it was doing not badly.
Gradually, we have added more and more lines to the stock, like chilli, which adds colour. By going straight to retail, it cuts out the middle man compared to wholesale.
“The customers are all amazing people. The farmers markets have become their weekly shop, because the produce is fresh. The buzz you get is whenever someone asks when the tomatoes are coming; or can they have something you sold them last week.
“People realise fruit and veg comes in seasons. They might be able to get strawberries at the supermarket in February – but will they taste the same as they do in June?”
Nigel has barely missed a single market day during his 20-year stay. “You have got to love it,” he said. “It is seven-days-a-week. I don’t think my sons will take over the business. One is a software engineer, which is a lot less tough way to make a living.”