[Update. The current situation is explained here]

Many of the local primary food producers were shocked to see a Lidl stall at Wantage Farmers’ Market. Lidl is a cut-price supermarket and their motive for being at the farmers’ market was to ginger-up support for a planning application for a new store.

Please don’t conflate the merits of the planning application for a Lidl store in Wantage with the issue the appropriateness of their presence at the Farmers’ Market. My argument is solely with Lidl’s presence at the farmers’ market.

Wantage Town Council describe the farmers’ market on their website as:-

selling locally produced food on the eastern side of the Square.

Lidl weren’t ‘selling locally produced food’ during the farmers’ market, yet they were at the eastern side of the square. By reason of the criteria above, Lidl had no right to be there. I would add that Lidl’s presence at the farmers’ market undermined the authenticity and character of our farmers’ market, primarily because they are the antithesis of the ethos and purpose of a farmers’ market. Undermining the authenticity of farmers’ markets harms local primary food producers, like me.

As a fellow stall holder said,

‘if we were to set up a farmers’ market in the Lidl car park, we would soon be turfed out by security.’

My Letter of Complaint: Lidl Wantage Farmers’ Market

Below is the body of my letter of complaint to Wantage Town Council which I emailed on 28 July 2019.

I was astonished to see a Lidl stall at Wantage Farmers’ Market this Saturday (27 July 2019). The reason I and many other stall holders were astonished was because most reasonable people would agree that a farmers’ market is synonymous with stall holders who sell locally made/sourced food or goods. Indeed the Farm Retail Association states on their website:

‘The primary aim of Farmers’ Markets is to support local farmers and producers, who sell produce they have grown or made to their local community’.

Furthermore, the Farm Retail Association describes things you should look out for at a real Farmers’ Market: http://www.farma.org.uk/farmers-market/

You should find real life farmers trading at the market.

If the product is not a farm product you should meet with the producer; this could be the baker, cook, curer or jam maker and they should source their ingredients as close to your market as possible.

The farmers and producers should come from your area; they should be part of your community where possible. Sometimes they may come from farther afield but only if they can’t get the products from a local producer.

Therefore, I believe that most reasonable people would agree that a Lidl stall is the antithesis of what you would expect to see at a farmers market.

I met with the Mayor and Cllr Dunford on Saturday whilst the market was operational. I really don’t agree with the thrust of Wantage Mayor’s argument yesterday morning, that because Lidl was only providing information it is perfectly acceptable for Lidl to be at the farmers market. The Mayor also remarked that ‘Sustainable Wantage’ has given out information at previous farmers’ markets and he believes that was acceptable. I wonder if Sustainable Wantage would be happy to be grouped in the same category as Lidl? Nonetheless, I believe that neither Sustainable Wantage nor Lidl should be present at the farmers’ market because they are not selling locally made/sourced food or goods.

Some of my fellow stallholders are questioning whether Wantage Farmers’ Market is merely just a ‘farmers’ market’ in name only; a fake farmers’ market rather than a real farmers market. I would be grateful if you can send me a copy of the criteria for allowing stall holders to gain a pitch at the farmers’ market.

I would also add, the supervision of where stall holders can site their stalls and the control of parking in the market place seems to be absent. If Lidl were sited outwith the market place, say outside the Bear Hotel, I would not have had so much of an issue. Conversely, those stall holders who genuinely sell locally made/sourced food or goods should be sited together, to at least give the impression that Wantage has a real farmers’ market. In addition, vehicles are being parked in the Market Place during market trading times, which obstructs the flow of people around the stalls and detracts from the character of the market. Sadly, some of these vehicles are owned by stall holders. Again, these issues can be addressed by proactive supervision of the market during trading times. Doesn’t the Town Council employ someone already to supervise the market?

I can only presume that the Wantage Town Council wishes to see a vibrant and viable Town Centre. A place where people are prepared to make the effort to visit. It is time for the Town Council to put effort into reinvigorating the farmers’ market instead of undermining it.

To make a start in addressing some of the issues above, the Town Council must get ‘Farmers Market Certification’ (see link below) to demonstrate the authenticity of Wantage Farmers’ Market and to show its commitment to the market.

Wantage Farmers Market in Action. Streetscene of Wantage Farmers Market at Wantage Market Place. SaveWantageFarmersMarket. Save Wantage Farmers Market.#WantageFarmersMarket, #SaveWantageFarmersMarket,
Wantage Farmers Market in Action

I look forward to your prompt response

[Update. The current situation is explained here]