A report on the progress of the Pilot Villge Farmers' Market Project 1999
for Monmouthshire County Council and the WDA Food Directorate

Table of Contents

  • Introduction and brief history
  • Calendar of main events.
  • Presentation of data
  • Analysis of data
  • Management
  • Discussion and case histories
  • the future of MLP
  • Financial report
  • Attached documents

 

Introduction. Brief history of Farmers' Markets in Monmouthshire.

A small scale market was held in the village hall at Llanishen in November 1998. A public meeting was convened in Jan 1999 and from that meeting a core group of a dozen producers formed a voluntary body calling itself Monmouthshire Local Produce ( MLP.) The aims of the group were broadly defined at that time but establishing Farmers' Markets has become the dominant activity. Grant aid was sought to assist in the setting up and developing of Farmers' Market in Monmouthshire. A two year pilot project was started in May with the aim of assessing the viability of the scheme set out in the grant application document. (See attached). Incremental increases in the size and frequency of the markets has been made during 1999 and at the end of the year two markets per month have been established at Usk.

Calendar

1998

  • First market Llanishen Village Hall Nov.

1999

  • Formation of MLP Feb.

  • Markets held in Llanishen Feb

  • Move to Devauden Village Hall March

  • First AGM of MLP May

  • Grants obtained May

  • Commencement of two year pilot project May

  • Market held at Dingestow June

  • First market at Usk July

  • Monmouth Show Aug

  • Devauden Market moved to Usk Oct.

  • Post of Assistant Manager created. Oct.

 

Presentation of data

Data on the numbers of people attending the markets has been obtained by actual count. Only the figures arrived at by this method have been used and where counts have not been made no result is recorded. The figures are not claimed to be totally accurate as variations can occur with individuals using separate entrances and making multiple entries but they are a useful indication of numbers attending.
Data on the turnover of individual stalls is gained by reports given by the individuals and on the rare occasion when these figures have not been obtained they are omitted from the record. (i.e. no averages used and no contribution to totals).

Analysis of data

Fig. 1

 

Fig.1 shows the gross turnover of the stallholders compared with the number of people attending the market. The chart shows the result from individual markets and it should be noted that from July onwards the number of markets increased to two per month. The difference between the markets at Devauden and Usk is clearly to be seen from the months of July to October when they were being run concurrently. There has been a decline in the numbers attending the markets in the months from July to October with a parallel reduction in turnover. Although the numbers attending the markets has remained low compared with the summer months the last three months of the year have produced consistent increases in turnover.

Fig. 2

 

Fig.2 shows the rate of per-capita spending at the individual markets. The differences between the Devauden and Usk markets are again apparent in the same period as Fig. 1 although the markets at Devauden show a marked and consistent higher level of per-capita spending compared to Usk. The turnover of a bio- dynamic vegetable stall was on average higher in Devuaden than at Usk ( the hourly rate of turnover was greater than at the Neals Yard London market attended by the same stallholder.) The last three months of the year produced a significant increase in per-capita spending to the highest levels. These figures of between £9 and £11 per customer compare favourably with those of around £1 which have been published for the pilot Bath Farmer' Markets in 1997.

The individual spending of customers has been inversely proportional to the numbers attending the markets and indicates there is a core of committed individuals who value the high quality of the produce available and are not concerned by the higher prices. Conversations with customers have shown that some are travelling long distances from such places as Bristol and Cardiff and are doing so on a regular basis. The overall increase in the turnover of the markets is mainly due to the increase in the per-capita spending.

Fig 3.

Fig.3 shows the turnover of the various categories of produce at individual markets. The most notable variation during the year has been the increase in the amounts of meat sold. The supply of meat to the market has increased through an increase in the number of suppliers. There was a seasonal variation in November and December with the sale of turkeys and geese. Most of the other products have seen a steady and sustained increase in turnover during the year. The exception is the category marked W.I./Jams which includes a variety of produce including plant, cut flowers, preserves, baked goods and summer vegetables as well as the W.I. stall. The W.I. reduced their attendance to one market a month from September and many of the other inclusions are seasonal.

Fig. 4

 

Fig.4 shows the same data as Fig. 3 but expressed as monthly amounts ( i.e. each point on the graph represents two markets after June and one market from February to June)

Fig. 5

 

Fig.5 shows the collective turnover and again is expressed as monthly amounts as in Fig. 3

 

Figs. 4 and 5 demonstrate that the doubling of the number of markets per month has more than doubled the monthly turnover.

Fig. 6

Fig.6 shows the income derived from the stall fees compared to the running costs which are made up of hall hire fees and the payments to the Manager and the Assistant Manager. There are additional on costs such as insurance, stationary, printing and advertising costs spread through the year which when they can be quantified should be added to the monthly costs as a constant. During the early part of the year the income from the stall hire fees was insufficient to pay for the running costs and a decision was made for the fees to be increased from £10 to £15 from September onwards. The affect of this increase was ameliorated, for the stalls with small turnovers, by charging £10 for 1/2 a stall. The figures on this chart show that the markets can probably be sustained at this level and a decision has been made that future payments to the managers should be met by earnings and not be dependent on using grants.

Discussion and case histories.

The main conclusion from the data presented in the previous pages is that the MLP Farmers' Markets have largely fulfilled the aims set out in the grant application document given that further markets in Monmouthshire are unlikely to be organised by MLP. The data also suggests that there is considerable scope for further development in the marketing of local produce in Monmouthshire.

There are other benefits that these markets have produced since their formation which are not shown by the presentation of figures. The stallholders are enjoying the experience and possibly are provided with a counter balance to what is a socially isolating way of life. The markets are a pleasant social experience for the customers and the light refreshments served at them have become an established feature.

No attempt, so far, has been made to quantify the peripheral benefits to members businesses although there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that this, in some instances, has been considerable.

Case Study 1 Cheese Maker: Melissa Ravenhill

This member runs a dairy farm with her husband which included, until the late summer of 1998, a farm shop. She had a small enterprise making cheese on the farm and found the farm shop too demanding of her time. Melissa attended the first Farmers' Market in Llanishen in November 1998 where her Dunlop cheese was extremely well received. Although her stocks were low she determined to increase her production for the MLP markets. Melissa also decided that the omens were sufficiently good to diversify and began making Double Gloucester cheese early in 1999. Within a few months she won an award for that cheese from a “Taste of the West" competition. Her sale of cheese at the markets has grown steadily through the year and she is now selling regularly at other Farmers' Markets in the region. Within one year the cheese making has become a central element in their farm enterprise and the experience, at the markets, has provided the confidence to register the farm for conversion to organic status. The farm is establishing a pedigree herd of Gloucester cattle which will enable the making of a PDO Single Gloucester cheese. Melissa's approach to the markets is an exemplar of how they can be used as an impetus for significant diversification and value addition to a primary product on the farm.

 

Case study 2 Mary and James Yule: Beef and Lamb producers

Mary and James are currently in conversion to organic status and attended the markets prior to their lamb season selling small flock eggs fed on organic food. They have substantially increased the size of this flock to about 80 birds and the sale of the eggs has been a useful adjunct to their stall. The lamb has sold consistently and enjoys a high reputation. The volume of sales at these markets has made a useful contribution to the overall income of the farm. Mary and James decided, during the course of the year, to cure the fleeces from the lambs to organic standards. This enterprise was immediately successful and sales are being made to London through contacts made at the markets. The fleeces are being readily sold at MLP markets and others in the region. The income from this product has become the most important single element in the farm enterprise. This case demonstrates the ease and affordability of the initial marketing of new products at Farmers' Markets and the ability of the markets to act as a spring board to further marketing opportunities.

Management

The original concept was to produce a marketing structures without individual ownership or one of common ownership. The system envisioned was to be based on mutual co-operation combined with the use of community owned resources such as village halls. The management was to be collective and democratic. It was determined, at the first AGM, that management was not to be delegated and all decision making would be made at full membership meetings. It quickly became apparent that a focal point was required, to avoid confusion, and a market manager position was created.

The role of the manager has been to act as the executive of group decisions and has been defined by function rather than devolved power. The difficulty of a group, with ever increasing membership, obtaining consensus at large meetings became overwhelming and this difficulty was resolved by forming a variety of sub- groups to assist in decision making. Finance and development groups have met on various occasions and in the autumn a management sub-committee was formed. The function or this group is to clarify the function of management and was given some plenary power to appoint an assistant manager. The group determined the role of Assistant Market Manager to perform a defined list of routine tasks and a job description was drawn up and the appointment made. The role of the Manager is being reassessed with a more qualitative approach being made in the job description.

Effective management of the markets requires a balance to be maintained between various elements. A consistent supply of high quality food with variety and choice for the customer has to be set against the need for individual stallholders to make adequate returns. In order for the markets to prosper and grow there needs to be a balanced increase in supply matched by proportional increase in demand. A further element is the necessity for the markets to be financially sustainable.

The markets at Usk are small compared with the national norms and require specialised management. The best way to describe the management of the MLP markets is that an effective method, that retains the original ethos, is still evolving.

Conclusion

The grants that have been given for this and the next financial year have been obtained to undertake a pilot project to test the feasibility of running Farmers' Markets in Monmouthshire. Original aims were to increase the frequency of the markets from one to three a month over a two year period and to be able to demonstrate that the markets could be financially sustainable.

The pilot was commenced at the beginning of May 1999 and after eight months it is clearly demonstrated that the markets are a success and, given the current structure, are financially self supporting.

The possibility of increasing the number of markets run by MLP has been curtailed by Monmouth County Councils decision to run Farmers Markets in Abergavenny, Monmouth and Chepstow. There is little remaining for MLP to justify further grant aid under the original scheme.

 

Search form