Fresh food from the farm to a market near you, Kate Rothwell speaks to market organiser, Jackie Spillane about the supermarket alternative.
The sprawling metropolis of Dublin city and its environs might seem like an increasingly urban environment, but there is a rural invasion underway. Over the past number of years farmers’ markets have grown in popularity, with over 130 taking place countrywide, and numerous examples settling up on certain days all across the capital.
At these markets, which take place on a weekly or sometimes monthly basis, those who have grown or produced the goods are available to sell their wares directly to the consumer.
Jackie Spillane, who hails from the not-so-rural background of Shankhill, organises in Dalkey, Dun Laoghaire, Marlay Park, the Dublin Docklands, Bray and Wicklow, and explained why she thinks consumers might choose this option over a trip to their nearest supermarket.
“You’re probably not going to get the cheapest thing at the market but you will probably get the best”
“If you’re at all concerned about what you’re eating… you’ll get information at a farmers’ market that you’ll never be able to get in a supermarket. It’s really about the direct contact, and the opportunity to provide these vendors with a direct sale opportunity”.
Some myths that Spillane is keen to dispel about farmers’ markets is that they are entirely organic, locally sourced affairs- in her opinion, they can’t be. “In this country, that’s just not practical… I have bakers that come from Wexford, I have a goat’s cheese farmer that comes from Cork – so it just depends on what your idea of local is.”
Local to Jackie is the Republic of Ireland, contrasting with the popular eco-trend that has produced the concept of the ‘five mile meal’, where all ingredients are sourced within a five mile radius of your own home.
This is, according to Spillane, not achievable. “Not whatsoever in this country, absolutely not. We have a very tiny population, of our tiny population there’s only a tiny percentage of them prepared to shop at markets and so vendors who want to make a living will have to go far and wide”.
Farmers’ markets are an all-year-round affair, but different foods are available throughout the various seasons. A wide range of Irish fruit and vegetables are on offer throughout the autumn, as well as raw meat, fresh dairy products, eggs and breads. Most of Jackie’s markets focus on groceries, but a lunchtime market on Wednesdays at the IFIFSC in Mayor Square provides a selection of artisan, mostly hot, alternatives to the humble sandwich.
The price of a sandwich is something that will be coming under scrutiny over the coming months, but Jackie believes that the markets will continue to thrive and that fresh, quality food is worth paying for.
“It still boils down to whether you’re an individual who believes cheapest is best… you’re probably not going to get the cheapest thing at the market but you will probably get the best”.
If you want to try out some fresh foods and meet the people behind them, see www.bordbia.ie