Traditionally farmers markets were places where farmers would gather to sell their produce directly to customers, and there are still many farmers markets in Ireland still doing exactly that.
However, in recent years, the term ‘farmers market’ has taken on a broader sense, especially in large towns and cities. In these instances, farmers markets usually include interesting homemade street food vendors, locally produced baked goods and sweets, great coffee and tea and finally an interesting selection of hand-made gifts, textiles, antiques and artworks. Things you won’t find easily in the shops or online (apart from on MarketStreet.ie of course!). There are no hard and fast rules for what you might find at a farmers market but generally, everything you buy was made locally and nothing is mass-produced.
The number of farmers markets in Ireland has exploded in recent years with there being over 50 regular farmers/craft market in Dublin alone.
So what makes a good farmers market? Here are our thoughts…
Variety is key, we like to see choices for everyone, a good farmers market should have something to suit vegans and carnivores. We like to see unusual cuisine represented alongside the more standard fare of burgers and falafel (we love both of these). Cakes, treats and handmade ice-cream never go a-miss either. Finally coffee, a bugbear of ours are big markets with only one coffee vendor and massive queues.
If we travel to a market we usually want to be able to spend an hour or two there at least, and we don’t want to spend the whole time eating otherwise we’ll need an entirely new wardrobe of larger clothes! So it’s important for us to be able to potter around looking at unique and interesting crafts. Again, variety is key, we like to see original artwork, personalised frames and gifts, textiles and accessories, homemade soaps and candles, unique wooden toys etc. It’s exciting to be able to support small Irish businesses and buy unique and handmade things at the same time!
Rather the exception than the norm, having some kind of entertainment really can be the icing on the cake when it comes to a great market. By entertainment, we mean anything at the market that you can’t buy to eat/take home with you. For example, music – maybe a guy with a guitar or a small band, games for kids, face painting, petting zoos, street artists (e.g. jugglers). This really can make a difference and make us want to return. Some of the markets we go to have entertainment some weeks for special ‘occasions’, but not others, so it can be worth doing some research before choosing where to head for the day.
The layout of a farmers market is important. There needs to be space for people to stop and look at things and have a chat with the makers at the stall without causing a traffic jam. The food stalls at most markets we go to get more of the footfall so it’s good to have them at both ends of the market as this pulls people across the stalls of the makers giving them a better chance to market their wares. Access to parking is also important, no one wants to spend ages looking for a space on-street and pay and display can be a real turnoff if expensive or you don’t have any change on you, so for us parking can’t be too much of a faff.
You can split the facilities that make a good farmers market into two groups, firstly the facilities specifically set up to service the market, those being places to sit, to eat drink and chat, toilets for after eating and drinking, and perhaps somewhere to shelter if it rains. But if you’re driving somewhere to spend a few hours or even half a day at the weekend you probably need a bit more than that. These broader facilities could include a good playground for the kids to play in, a wide-open area for you to take your dog for a walk, other activities to engage in while you are there (e.g. yoga classes or boot camps).
All of these added together, we think, makes a good market a great one.
With this in mind, we intend to write up some reviews of local markets we have attended based on the above criteria. Starting with a favourite of ours – Bushy Park Market, Dublin 6W.
What makes a great market for you? Have we missed anything here? What are a few of your favourite markets you think we should review?
We’d love to hear from you.