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A visit to Ripley Farmers’ Market - Notes from a Small Village

PUBLISHED: 21:52 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 18:33 10 May 2017

Fresh produce on sale at Ripley Farmers' Market

Fresh produce on sale at Ripley Farmers' Market

Archant

In this month’s column, best-selling author, Miriam Wakerley, focuses on Ripley and its famous farmers’ market

Ripley Farmers' Market Committee members, with Sally holding the defibrillator bought with funds raisedRipley Farmers' Market Committee members, with Sally holding the defibrillator bought with funds raised

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2017

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Sally Erhardt worked for celebrity foodie Prue Leith for 20 years as school principal and later food quality director. She moved to Ripley in 1996 and was disappointed to find no local food offerings in the village. There was, she says, “a village shop with some tired old veg and a small supermarket”, and quickly perceived a particular problem for an ageing population served by poor public transport.

She looked around; Cranleigh had a Farmers’ Market, so did Guildford, Milford and Farnham. Why not little Ripley? Fired up with a bright spark of enthusiasm, she got four like-minded friends together as a committee. “People thought we were mad!” she says. Just a handful of stalls was what they had in mind - nothing crazy at all.

It took a few years, but dogged determination and powers of persuasion eventually won the day, and, aided by a small grant from Surrey County Council, the first Ripley local produce market with 30 to 40 stalls was launched on the green in 2005. Racing-driver, Damon Hill did the official opening and the village was gridlocked with customers. In 2014, it won the Surrey Life Food & Drink Award for Best Farmers’ Market.

Spreading the word

Now its website, Facebook and Instagram accounts publicise events – that is if folk remember to look! Initially Sally and friends had leaflets printed that went everywhere they could think of and other local markets helped through good old word-of-mouth; Sally says they all help each other, including now Haslemere and Godalming.

Then there were the banners bearing RIPLEY FARMERS’ MARKET – oh yes! They contrived to fix these onto the bridge spanning the nearby A3. Sally went to endless trouble to find out if this was in breach of some law or the other. The response was slow so they decided if it was that vague they would go ahead anyway and thus it continued for five or six years – until a new broom put a stop to it.

The ethos of Ripley Farmers’ Market

Never set up for personal commercial gain but rather prompted by people who love good, fresh food, the impressive £70K proceeds have been ploughed back into the community and charities, as described on their website. If the weather is bad enough to cancel, stall-holders are not charged. Customers like that they can visit the sources, the actual farms, assured that farmers really care for their animals and love to talk about them. To qualify as a Farmers’ Market, produce comes from within a 50 mile radius, unless it is something like fresh fish which, typically, may come from Salcombe. Surrey is not known for its coastline!

The committee of 10 love to bring the community together, providing tables and chairs where people can chat. Younger people are joining in; there is a children’s treasure hunt; dog show; Ripley Bake Off; tractor display; cookery demonstrations; Christmas crafts and other seasonal events like the laminated Easter bunny hunt! Something to cater for all tastes! Watch out for BoozeFest (well, the Grape and Grain Drinks Festival) on Saturday June 10!

– For more, visit ripleyfarmersmarket.co.uk

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Miriam Wakerly’s novels are set in the ficticious Surrey/Hamsphire village of Appley Green. Read more at miriam.wakerly@blogspot.co.uk or follow @miramwakerly

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