Exploring Cliftonville Farmers' Market
PUBLISHED: 11:00 04 June 2018
Working with Kent Farmers’ Market Association, we put a different market in the spotlight each month. This month, Cliftonville!
With far-reaching sea views, Cliftonville Farmers’ Market is very much a part of a thriving community. The multi-award winning market was Kent Life Farmers’ Market of the Year winner in 2017 and has been voted Taste of Kent Best Farmers’ Market in Kent four times.
It is run by a passionate group of volunteers, led by market manager June Chadband. As one of the oldest markets in Kent (it celebrates its 17th anniversary this September), it sits on the clifftop surrounding the historic bandstand and enthusiastically follows its ethos of promoting good-quality food at fair prices.
Regularly hosting up to 25 stalls, June says: “We have fantastic support from our local community. It’s a great meeting place for friends and family.
“Around 75 per cent of our customers live in Cliftonville, and we are seeing increasing numbers of young families who have relocated from London.
“It’s lovely to see children getting excited about where their food comes from and that it’s not just from supermarkets and wrapped in plastic. They’re our customers of the future and it’s rewarding to see their interest develop in food and drink.”
The producers include MB Farms and Bessborough Farms and Dickie Oveneden, who grows vegetables on his farm.
There’s also Two Suns Quality Fish, who sail their own fishing boats out of Queensborough, and Stour Valley Game, which offers local meat in season such as venison, rabbit, pheasant and wild duck as well as boar and rose veal.
The market is sited around an historic, oval-shaped bandstand park that was refurbished 10 years ago after a fundraising campaign led by the Cliftonville Residents Association (CRA) on behalf of the local families and residents.
Originally set up by June and her late husband Keith, it was Keith and CRA who led the succesful fundraising efforts to refurbish the bandstand.
The seafront area once included many hotels and restaurants, with Smiths Court Hotel and the Walpole Bay Hotel still attracting visitors from London and further afield, many of who come to the area to visit the popular Turner Contemporary gallery in nearby Margate.
The market is a vital part of the town, attracting a wide range of local residents and day visitors, says June. “I am very proud of my stallholders. They are friends and they are so nice and there’s always a lovely atmosphere. Richard ‘Dickie’ Ovenden, our veg producer, has been with us from day one. Another popular stallholder is Never Mind The Cupcakes, an artisan-baking business based in Margate producing a range of cakes, tarts and bakes, in fact just about any sweet treat except cupcakes!
“Co-founders Lynda Howard and Steve Prowse relocated from London and have built a successful food business from the market and now sell sweet and savoury bakes across the area. Lynda also volunteers at the market, running its Twitter account.”
The market is held on the last Sunday of the month on the Oval Lawns, Eastern Esplanade from 10am-1pm with the exception of December, when it is held on the Sunday before Christmas.
Craft stalls are limited, allowing the focus to be on local food and drink. It’s a family affair with June’s two sons Fraser and Matthew helping set up and take down stalls for the producers each month, helped by two additional volunteers.
Unusually, the green stalls and canopies are owned by the market, giving it a tidy, coherent look.
All markets are held outside, the cheerful green and white-striped awnings catching the eye of passers-by and offering protection against the rain, sun, and bracing sea winds.
Bruce McMichael is an award-winning food and drink writer, cookery demonstrator and Farmers’ Market manager. Based in Tunbridge Wells, he won an episode of the TV cooking talent show Gordon Ramsay’s Culinary Genius. Bruce edits the food website www.thelemongrove.net.
What’s in season at the Farmers Market in June
After such a slow, cold start this year, growers and producers are now at full stretch in a month that enables you to sample the best the Garden of England has to offer.
As the asparagus season didn’t get going until mid May, growers will stop picking by the end of the month, so make the most of the green spears now. Enjoy steamed and served with melted butter, or brush with olive oil and griddle on the barbecue. Other veg to look out for are crisp radishes, spring onions, spinach and new potatoes. There are also early cucumbers, runner beans, spinach, courgettes and salad leaves.
A cool start means early strawberries might be slower to appear than last year but they will have benefited from a slower growing period for flavour. Ditto cherries, gooseberries and early raspberries. A favourite way to serve raspberries, cherries and strawberries is to crush them slightly, sprinkle with Kentish cherry brandy or Italian vin santo and sugar then leave to macerate for an hour.
Spring lamb is at its finest and a boned shoulder or leg is perfect on the barbecue or simply roasted and served with baby new potatoes and minted broad beans and peas.
On the fish front it’s got to be mackerel, bought from the market and cooked the same day. Try it grilled with gooseberry sauce.
Bob Taylor is Vice Chairman of KFMA, manager of Shipbourne Farmers’ Market and a board member of the National Assoication of Farm Shops and Farmers’ Markets