The farmers’ market in Wye
A while back I was having a conversation with a friend who was expressing doubts about local shopping. We were discussing the local farmers’ market in Wye in Kent and he was saying that he often visited in order to talk to fellow villagers but he seldom bought anything.
“It’s more expensive and it takes time,” he said.
“Are you completely sure?” I replied, before explaining my own situation.
I’ve done all my food shopping in the village for the past 6 years – groceries at the local co-op, vegetables and fruit at the local farm shop, meat at the butcher’s, jams and chocolate and smoked food at the farmers’ market.
In terms of time, I obviously forego the time spent in a car driving to the local Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s, or sitting behind the computer organising an online delivery. And I often combine a local shop with walking the dog or meeting a friend. While I understand my friend’s point that this is time-consuming, I nevertheless feel it is positive time rather than negative: an enjoyable experience and I don’t resent it as a result.
In terms of expense, things are a little more complicated. I have teenage children and two of them have worked at the local farm shop. So I usually spend £30 in the farm shop on a weekday and then one of them goes and earns it back at the weekend. I therefore feel that a direct price comparison is unnecessary. It feels a bit like involving someone else in the dispensing of pocket money – with the benefits of work experience and food consumption thrown in.
“Ah,” said my friend, “But my children don’t work at the shop,” perhaps failing to anticipate that his younger children might like to do so in the future. Perry Court Farm Shop
, to give the place a plug, has employed large numbers of teenagers from Wye and their parents have all benefited by having children who have a source of income away from their households – saving family money.
But what if you don’t have children at all? Or at least no interest in lining their pockets? I feel that the same rules apply to other sectors of the population.
In this context, how do we want rural communities like Wye to develop? As featureless dormitories reliant on personal car ownership and social workers from outside to support the lonely, carless and otherwise infirm? Or communities where local enterprises have been encouraged and supported and where these local enterprises support the elderly and isolated in return?
It might appear easier when you’re 30 or 40 to visit Sainsbury’s or to shop online, but it’s not hard to imagine where one might rather shop at the age of 90. In the bright lights? With all that choice and in amongst the miles and miles of shelving without a shop assistant anywhere to be seen? I think not.
Our local shops are already providing vital assistance to the elderly and isolated people in the community, recognising and supporting those who need a little extra help. If they didn’t exist, the lives of older people here in Wye would be less rich. And younger people would have to spend even more on social care through tax than we do now.
So, in the long term, is local shopping more expensive? I really don’t think so.