Right on cue the sun came out just at the moment when Nether Edge Farmers’ Market opened. The weather knows how to behave when it’s market day.
It’s a local legend that the weather is always fine or at least it doesn’t rain on the quarterly market, founded in March 2008. And that’s almost true although there has been snow and in another case a downpour but there was a silver lining because a stallholder who wanted to go home early sold me some pate very cheaply.
The market, run by Nether Edge Neighbourhood Group (NENG), is a textbook case on how to run a market, solely through voluntary effort, for the good of the community. The number of stalls and the volume of visitors put Sheffield City’s Council’s farmers’ market to shame. The only one to touch it for size locally is Bakewell and that’s commercial.
Now it plans to spread its wings even further with a week-long festival.
The city council holds the rights to local markets – they go back to medieval times – but temporary markets such as Nether Edge, on the site of the Victorian market centre, can take place. Nether Edge Road and Glen Road are blocked off to allow the stalls. The market makes a profit but it all goes to local charities: so far they have benefitted by almost £50,000, says acting chairman Chris Venables. (This blog has no truck with ‘chairs.’)
I caught her, clad in yellow visibility jacket, keeping a proprietorial eye on the market, the 29th so far. It had just over 80 stalls selling everything from cheese, fish, vegetables and homemade preserves to meat, pies, ostrich eggs, bacon and sausages, as well as books, prints, crafts and hot food. If it is produced in or around Nether Edge (or a bit further afield), it was probably being sold on the market.
And as Easter was looming there were stalls selling home made Easter eggs manned by Easter bunnies.
Not every trader, of course, was a farmer. They were actually in the minority but the term has come to embrace artisans in food, drink and crafts. Farmers’ markets are supposed to celebrate the produce from the surrounding 30 miles so you do wonder at the Palestinian olive oil but then Nether Edge is wall-to-wall with Guardian readers.
It’s not expensive – a stall costs £30 – and makes for an interesting afternoon. We bought cakes, cheese and trout pate. Many of the local shops and cafes were also open for the day. The market also spills over into Nether Edge Bowling Club where people can enjoy a drink or admire the green.
Entertainment and music is of the homemade variety – jazz bands, the Sally Army, Morris and belly dancers have all been seen – a refreshing contrast to the amateurs playing at being a DJs at ear-splitting volume at a nearby market.
“We don’t advertise. I think if we did we’d get even more people,” said Chris, pointing out that Nether Edge was the first in the area. Its success has not been lost on other neighbourhoods: Sharrow Vale, Broomhill and Bradfield have all copied it.
The market is spawning a new Nether Edge Festival, from September 5-13, ending with the quarterly market on that Sunday. NENG wants to hear about events planned to bring under the banner. I can almost guarantee the weather will hold.
For details of the markets (and a video) visit http://www.netheredge.org.uk