A day in the life of… A Farmers’ Market
Pembrokeshire produce at its best
If you really want to discover the flavour of Pembrokeshire, and all that its fabulous farmers and local producers have to offer, why not take a trip to a farmers’ market?
Gather a feast for supper, or find a tasty treat to take home with you to remind you of your stay in Pembrokeshire.
The county town of Haverfordwest has an award-winning certified Farmers’ Market every Friday in the picturesque setting of The Riverside shopping area.
We went behind the scenes of the market to discover its recipe for success, and to give you an insight into the produce on offer and some of the stories of the Pembrokeshire producers.
The day starts early for the traders who arrive to set up their stalls before the early-bird customers appear.
A certified farmers’ market means all the produce on sale has been, grown, reared, baked, brewed, caught, pickled, smoked or processed by the producer. All producers attending are from a defined local area, in the case of Haverfordwest Farmers’ Market, no more than 50 miles.
The produce on offer is varied and changes throughout the seasons. The markets run all year round, with different traders at different sites. What is guaranteed is a colourful display of fresh produce to make your mouth water.
Pat Bean, from Springfields in Manorbier, runs her business with husband Nick. They are expert daffodil growers but also sell vegetables, fruit and other flowers.
Pat said her stall looks different every week, depending on what is in season. In the spring she has her daffodil blooms, with asparagus in April, May and June. Cherries follow, and then strawberries and raspberries.
From the end of July Pat sells daffodil bulbs, with a vast array of varieties on offer. Among Pat’s favourites are Mando, but she said the Tenby daffodil is very special – and very popular with her customers, especially visitors to the county.
After the autumn, Pat takes a break from the markets before returning with her daffodil blooms, starting back in December if they are ready.
The irresistible smell of freshly baked bread – there’s nothing quite like it. The Welsh Bakery has a fine display of loaves, rolls, buns and sweet pastries, with tables overflowing. You’ll be spoilt for choice, but don’t leave it too late as this is a very popular stall!
Shannon the dog was very tempted with some of the cheeses on offer, and even got to taste some samples. Shannon was on holiday in Pembrokeshire with her owners Louise Coates and Stuart Hendry.
The couple, from Hertfordshire, love visiting Pembrokeshire and were staying at their ‘favourite haunt’ of St Brides.
They were impressed with the market, recommending it for its great local produce, excellent value and great taste. They also said it was good to talk to the producers themselves.
“We love coming to the county,” said Louise. “We tend to come in the autumn, after the summer holidays. We come for the peace and tranquility and we unwind and relax.”
Stuart added: “The people here are so friendly and it’s a great time to bring the dog. We walk a lot and love visiting the beaches with Shannon.”
Autumn is a time for pickles, preserves, jam and chutney, and the colours of autumn glow from these jars on the Country Market stall.
Talking to all of the producers, one of the repeated comments was that their customers become friends.
And all the traders have loyal customers who just can’t help but keep coming back for more – a sure sign of quality and value for money.
You can meet some great artisan producers at the markets. A relative newcomer to the scene is Simon Pope, of Llechryd.
Simon set up his business, Casa Del Cymru, in May, and produces fresh pasta.
He starts making the pasta at 4am on the day of the markets and it’s hard to resist his colourful display, created by using only natural ingredients.
Customers can choose from beetroot and roasted garlic, seaweed and chili or spinach and black pepper reginetta. There’s also smoked salmon, red pepper and dill ravioli, Ceredigion ham ravioli and Caerphilly chees, chive and spinach ravioli.
And because the pasta is so fresh, it only takes between 40 seconds and a minute to cook – what could be easier than that?!
As well as the Haverfordwest market, Simon travels to St Dogmaels market, Aberystwyth and Cardiff.
Cheese, gin and chili relish may seem like an unusual combination, but that’s exactly what is on offer at the Teifi Cheese stall.
The artisan cheese-makers have won many awards over the years, since setting up Teifi Farmhouse Cheese in Llandysul in 1982.
Glynhynod Farm is also home to the recently built organic distillery – Damhile Distillery.
The distillery began making an orange liquer and now also produces gin. Their seaweed gin has quickly become a top seller.
Fresh vegetables are always on the menu at the markets. A well-established business and market stalwart is F.J. Hathway & Sons, from Broomhill Farm, Angle.
The stall is manned by Barry Hathway, who farms in partnership with his brother Brian. F.J. Hathway was their grandfather who set up the veg growing business.
Today they have around 32 acres of vegetables and their season kicks off with Pembrokeshire early potatoes. They grow everything from carrots, broad beans, beetroot and cabbage to broccoli, parsnips, onions and leeks.
Barry said: “This is my day off at the market – even though I’m working! It’s great to get out with your produce and talk to your customers.”
Claws Shellfish offers lobster, cockles, mackerel pate, smoked and fresh fish. A family-run business, son Joe is now in charge after his parents Christine and Neil recently retired.
Joe is a familiar face at the markets and food festivals around the county. He said the market is a perfect place to buy fresh fish.
“Everything here is fresh,” he said. “We’re very competitive on price, plus I get to have a chat with customers. I can tell them everything about the fish and they can ask any questions.”
Try before you buy. The markets give you a chance to taste what’s on offer before you decide what to buy – a distinct advantage over supermarkets.
Sarah Miller, of Sarah Cooks, has been going to the market for four years. What started out as a hobby has now become a thriving business. Sarah has won multiple awards for her jams, marmalades and chutneys.
This year she was a gold award winner with her Seville and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade Jelly with Armagnac, at the World Artisan Marmalade awards held in Cumbria.
If you’ve worked up an appetite with all the shopping, you can also try some hot cooked food. Pulled pork roll anyone?
Organic meats are a popular buy at the farmers’ markets. Beef and lamb specialist Paul Oeppen, manages 350 acres of farmland, producing organic, native breed beef and lamb.
Paul said farmers’ markets are a great place to buy meat.
“We use native breeds because they taste good – they are not necessarily the heaviest or biggest, but taste is the most important aspect,” he said.
“There is full traceability of the meat, which is important to consumers. And customers can ask any questions and get advice on what cuts of meat to choose.”
Paul has Welsh Blacks, Herefords, Aberdeen Angus and South Devon cattle and has a flock of Lleyns, Dorsets and Hampshire Down sheep. He also supplies the Four Seasons farm shop, outside Tenby, and Ultracomida deli in Narberth.
If you’re looking for something sweet, head to the Country Market stall with a dazzling selection of cakes. If you’ve never tried a freshly cooked Welsh cake, now’s your chance.
Cuckoo Mill Farm, producing farm fresh turkeys, is a long established family business in Pembrokeshire.
Margaret Davies started out 55 years ago and still attends the Haverfordwest market every week.
Christmas may be their busiest time of the year, but they sell turkey all year-round supplying the catering trade, selling to butchers’ shops and selling at farmers’ markets in Pembrokeshire and further afield.
They have one customer in particular who goes to the market every week with the same order.
“We have a man who travels from Tenby, on the bus, every week. He says he’s coming to check up on us and every week he buys the same thing,” said Mrs Davies.
“He buys a turkey wing – which is nearly as big as he is because he’s not very big, and he is 101!”
As well as the weekly market held in Haverfordwest (every Friday, 9am-3pm), there are a number of other markets held around the county:
Pembroke – every other Saturday, Pembroke Town Hall, 9.30am-1.30pm.
Fishguard – every Saturday, Fishguard Town Hall, 9am-1.30pm.
St Davids – Thursdays.
St Dogmaels – Tuesdays, 9am-1pm.
Newport – Mondays.
As the stall holders started to pack up for the day, and the umbrellas came down, weary shoppers stopped for a rest before heading home with their bags of goodies.
Find out more about foodie Pembrokeshire and why its a gourmands delight.