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Farmers' Market: ten years without the middle man

The farmers and producers will be celebrating their birthday with a giant pork pie and live country music this Friday – and they're giving ten readers a goody bag to take away.

Published on October 8th 2008.

Farmers' Market: ten years without the middle man

It's a full decade since the farmers and producers first wheeled their carts into the city centre for their twice-monthly markets.

Back in 1998 this field-to-street set-up was revolutionary: yes it had been done before in the olden days but in our supermarket-dominated world, a direct producer to customer relationship was a very rare thing. The success of the market proved that it worked – and paved the way for more artisan-led trading in the city, including the Fashion Market, the Garden Market, and the Fine Food Market.

The Farmers' and Producers' Market's first home was opposite the Market Restaurant in the Northern Quarter. Unsurprisingly, this out-of-the-way location didn't lead to a huge influx of custom, and it was moved around the city centre until it finally landed up in its current location of Piccadilly Gardens. This is better for the sellers and for the buyers who can pick up that night's dinner from producers who may have plucked it from the field or oven that morning.

The market's longevity reflects the change in attitudes of shoppers: people want to know where their food is from, what's in it, and whose pocket their money will end up inside.

And the beauty of the idea is that the big businesses competing for the same customers can't offer anything even half as authentic. Heinz tried to hijack the farmers' market 'brand' by launching a range of mass-produced Farmers' Market soup in 2007. When the Advertising Standards Authority investigated the products earlier this year, they concluded that the advertising wasn't misleading – but only because it was so ludicrous. The ASA said few people would believe a multinational company like Heinz was sourcing its ingredients from small-scale farmers' markets.

At Manchester's Farmers and Producers Market, the stallholders are the real thing, not actors dressed as country folk for the sake of some carefully-constructed brand values. If you go along this week, you'll meet the producers of home-made fudge and toffee, pork pies, sausages and steaks, seasonal game and other fresh cuts of meat, traditional cheeses, fruit and savoury pies, cakes and loaves, smoothies and more.

There will also be fresh soups, courtesy of the Foodie Farmer, aka Richard Morphett, a sheep farmer from Hebden Bridge who trained as a classical chef. We hope he's trademarked that name; you don't know which global food giant might want to claim it as their own.

The Farmers' and Producers' Market takes place this Friday and Saturday (10 and 11 October) at Piccadilly Gardens between 10am and 6pm. On Friday, there will be live country music, free tasters and recipes, and chunks of giant pork pie sold for charity.

The market has goody bags to give away to the first ten Manchester Confidential readers who hand in the voucher below between midday and 2pm on Friday.

To get your entry form simply enter your details in the form below...

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Thank you for your interest, but this competition closed to further entries on November 11th 2009.

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