We have read many concerned reports about how the drop in milk prices is hitting farmers hard. They also find that prices in supermarkets are significantly higher than the amount they receive for their produce.
One enterprising housewife has suggested that farmers should consider a step back into the past and start selling milk direct to consumers. The price of milk in supermarkets and shops is now several times what the farmers receive from Dairygold or Glanbia.
Vegetables and other produce could also be sold direct, thus allowing farmers higher margins for some of their produce compared to selling to the food industry.
Farmers’ markets are becoming popular in many towns around Ireland, Midleton in Cork has one of the best in the country.
Last weekend in Dungarvan at the County Council sponsored Waterford Food Festival there was a wide range of food produce on sale. This proved very rewarding for both producers and consumers. The weather also proved a great attraction.
Thousands of shoppers were there to buy vegetables, honey, jams, organic fruit and vegetable plus lots of cooked food, from sausages to foreign type food from the Lebanon to the Caribbean.
Darina Allen gave a very encouraging talk to producers and consumers. She runs Ballymaloe House in Mallow.
Ardkeen has a very lively market every fortnight and the Jenkins Lane area as much happening at weekends with local producers of cheese and bread selling their wares. Tramore too has seen a new market take off. Fish from Kilmore Quay is an extra attraction there for shoppers. Close to Supervalu, they also get a spin off.
As the recession takes a bite there is a willingness on the consumers’ part to help local producers and buy from them. It is also often more cost effective to do so.
One can only buy what is in season, so there are limits to local support for food markets. The transition town movement is anxious to get more people growing their own food and selling it. Tramore has a branch of this group which started in Kinsale in Cork and is now spreading in the UK as well as the US and Europe, where sustainable living is the motto.
Getting farmers to grow more and sell direct to consumers is one of their goals and given the pressure on farmers from the big multiples and factories, perhaps they could consider balancing some of their income and gain some business from local food markets. It could be one of the ways of the future.
The Dungarvan Food Festival last weekend and the Slow Food Festival in Waterford last September clearly pointed in this direction.