Farmers markets feel the big freeze as trade at local stores hots up

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FARMERS markets were buffeted by the big freeze while the area’s butchers and produce stores gained, according to East Lothian-based agricultural marketing company Scene and Herd’s Anna Davies.

Local producers came into their own during the month-long freeze, she says.

And certainly Kelso and Yetholm butchers, Lees, who also sell other Borders produce, said they had seen a big upswing during the snow.

Lees Butchers’ Donny Cockburn said: “We were a lot busier in the bad weather because people couldn’t get out. At Yetholm we were seeing people we hadn’t seen for years. It was great and there has been a follow up, especially in Kelso, with people returning to the shop. When people realise the difference in quality, they come back.”

Ms Davies said: “Local food producers saved the day for struggling shoppers by battling to stay open and even offering to deliver shopping where the supermarkets couldn’t.

“Many local producers got quite a few requests for help from people who had placed their Christmas food order with either a supermarket or through a mail order company but were informed that they would not get it delivered or that the supermarket had not been able to supply.”

Outgoing Peebles Farmers Market chairman, Jock Bolton, said: “The Christmas market was pretty average but it is the second Saturday of the month so it is a week too early and the weather a week prior to it had been bad. People couldn’t get to it.”

But the Thistlecockrig producer described the November market as “a blinder”, although producers could not pin down the reason for that month’s success. And he cautioned: “The big effect will be when the fuel bills come in.”

Borders producers selling at Edinburgh and Haddington farmers’ markets fared better with bumper markets from the end of August through to December but, said Mr Bolton, “Local sales, apart from November, are not quite so big.”

Mr Bolton said: “This is one of the lowest earning areas in the UK. I can’t look to people on the minimum wage here to buy my produce at the price I sell it in Edinburgh.

“There, when they open their wallet there are notes in it but when people bring their wallets here it’s coins. I get all my coins for the float for the farmers’ markets from the shop: that tells a story.”