Farmers' Markets

Last week I visited Henfield Farmers' Market for its re-launch, where it was great to see so many people taking the opportunity to buy and enjoy locally produced food and to support our farmers in West Sussex, many of whom have experienced difficult times.

I purchased some fantastic locally-grown beef, which tasted so much better than anything I've ever bought in a supermarket, and some delicious honey from Hassocks bees.

I am a great believer in local produce being sold at local markets. Not only does this give people access to high quality produce, it also reduces the distance which food has travelled before it reaches us. Our food is fresher, while at the same time the environmental cost of its journey from source to table is reduced.

There is also usually less packaging on the food on sale at farmers' markets. I am concerned about proposals for local landfill sites at Laybrook and Rock Common, and took this up with the County Council last week. We should certainly refuse to take London's waste, while increasing recycling will help to produce less waste in the first place which then has to go to landfill.

Of course, supermarkets offer a superb range of good value and varied produce in one convenient setting, and we all use them. But there is no doubt that out-of-town retail developments have contributed to the demise of many specialist high street stores.

Since the Millennium alone over 9,000 independent grocery stores have closed across the country, and specialist shops such as butchers, bakers and fish-mongers have been shutting down at the rate of 50 a week.

There is no easy answer to these problems. Supermarkets are a sign of the times, and people want them.  We can't turn the clock back. But let's do what we can to support our local producers, shops and farmers' markets.

Michelle Taylor