Alex Handford

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In 1999 Hampshire welcomed its very first farmers’ market in Winchester. The concept of farmers’ markets came from across the Atlantic, with the city of Bath being the first to pick up the potential new trend.  Francis Stokes of Hampshire County Council discovered Bath’s market and decided that there should be a Hampshire farmers’ market. With a little help from Mike Smales of Lyburn Cheese and Mike Woodhall, Hampshire Farmers’ Market (HFM) was launched.

Alex Handford, the business manager at HFM, joined in 1996 as temporary maternity cover: “I was supposed to be here six months, but I stayed!”

The same year, HFM became accredited by FARMA (Farmers Retail and Markets Association), giving their customers assurance that the markets were affiliated to an official and respected organisation. HFM still uses FARMA criteria guidelines today.

As popular as ever

It wasn’t long until the farmers’ market concept caught on and, before long more Hampshire towns were welcoming producers on to their high streets, market squares and car parks. In the late nineties, Sunday trading wasn’t fully established and council’s were trying to bring footfall into town centres. With the arrival of the markets, they certainly achieved that.

It’s fair to say a lot has changed over the last 17 years in terms of what we consumers like to buy, what we like to eat and how we like to eat it. There is certainly a great love of farmers’ markets. People love the idea of having a local one to them.

To market?

If you’re thinking of becoming a HFM member you’re not obliged to have a stall at every market happening in the county (not many of us can be in more than one place at once). Choose to do as many or as few as you like. What we do say is to think about setting up at more than one location. All our producers have fabulous products, which we think need to be shared with everyone in Hampshire. If you become a regular sight at one of our markets, you will begin to get regular customers too.