Over the past year, Wealden farmers’ markets and craft fairs have grown in popularity as people rediscover this way of shopping amid the pandemic – and stallholders and councillors are hoping it’s a trend that will continue.

Wealden District Council is pro-actively working with local market co-ordinators to help share best practice across the district and has launched a new video on its YouTube channel showing how markets create a community hub and support small businesses. 

Farmers and craft markets have been popular in the UK before, but with the ubiquity of supermarkets, most people tend to shop in store or online.

However, in French culture, markets have been a staple of life throughout time and are often the hub of rural market towns. They are great places to spend time and a good way to connect to your neighbourhood. They are also a huge attraction for visitors.

Councillor Roy Galley, who oversees Wealden District Council’s Community and Regeneration Team and is the lead member for economic development, is hoping the resurgence is a lasting change.

Councillor Galley said, “I am delighted the ‘Shop and Dine Well in Wealden’ campaign is now promoting our markets across the district. As well as raising their profile on social media, we’ve produced a new video to showcase what is on offer. We hope by working together, the individual markets will go from strength to strength.”

During lockdown, loneliness and isolation became a real issue for many people, including those living alone, the retired and home-workers.

Councillor Galley said, “Visiting farmers markets and local craft fairs is a great way of getting out and meeting people as well as discovering fresh, seasonal produce and unique items.  Markets are also places where traditional Sussex crafts and artisan trades are kept alive.”

Matt Holmes runs Hillside Coffee and has a stall at the popular East Dean Market which takes place each Wednesday.

He said, “It’s important for people to get out and meet each other, whilst spending more locally.  I and other stallholders here have noticed a big shift in people buying more locally, which is good for the local economy and smaller businesses have a chance to thrive.”

Maddy Bishop from Green Planet Paper is a stallholder at Forest Row Market, which is held on the first Saturday of every month. Her business offers a range of environmentally friendly cards, gift tags and recycled wrapping paper, which grow once planted into the ground.

Maddy said, “There was a waiting list to have a stall at Forest Row Market as it’s so popular. There is a really good community spirit here and everyone wants to support locals and meet the people behind the products.”

Joanne Rogers, MD of Prowse & Co, which delivers the ‘Shop and Dine Well in Wealden’ campaign on behalf of Wealden District Council, said buying from local markets is good for the environment too.

“You can you find delicious fresh and seasonal produce, grown in close proximity to where you live, rather than supermarket food which is often shipped in from overseas,” said Joanne.

“When you shop from a local grower or farmer, you will know the provenance of what you are buying.”

Councillor Roy Galley added, “Local markets are an integral part of our community life in Wealden acting as a source of income for a huge range of businesses and as a force for social cohesion. 

“After the pandemic, I have found that many people are pleased to support them and get back to meeting friends and neighbours. It’s good to join in and support local businesses and communities.”

Discover more about Wealden’s markets at https://www.healthywealden.co.uk/wealden-local-markets/

View the new Wealden Markets video at https://youtu.be/H4VO5rL93MY

You can also follow the ‘Shop and Dine Well in Wealden’ campaign at:

•           Facebook Page – @ShopDineinWealden •           Twitter – @ShopDineWealden