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Rolvenden Farmers' Market

PUBLISHED: 15:56 27 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013

Focus on Rolvenden Farmers' Market

Rolvenden Farmers' Market started in the village's pretty 13th-century church of St Mary the Virgin in 2000, making it one of Kent's oldest. Sue Saggers, who helped set it up, works for a charity for people with learning difficulties, which includes looking after chickens. They wanted somewhere to sell their eggs, and the vicar suggested using the church.

As the market grew, it expanded into the village hall opposite. Susie Morley, who now helps Sue, explains: "We have a policy of not turning anyone away if they can offer us something we don't already have and they make, bake or grow it themselves. We've provided the first foot on the ladder for many people starting out in their own business. Eventually they may become established and move on - and that is the way it should be."

This 'open-door approach' means Rolvenden's market offers a particularly wide range of stalls, including many craft stalls. Some, like Penny Fowler, a local silversmith, can be seen making her jewellery at the market. While Farmers' Markets should always be primarily about local food and drink, the interest offered by alternative stalls adds to their attractiveness and individuality, and provides a vital outlet for many of Kent's artisans.

Susie is also a passionate advocate of the fairer trading conditions offered by markets. "I don't think people realise that if anyone sells their goods through a shop, the shopkeeper will only be prepared to pay, at best, 40 per cent of the retail price to the producer because they have their own overheads and can often source goods cheaply from abroad. So, if anyone can sell directly, they will hopefully see more reward for their effort."

In these difficult economic times, buying direct offers benefits to both sellers and shoppers.

Rolvenden Farmers' Market is held from 10am to12 noon every Thursday. The market also organises weekly walks to explore the local High Weald countryside and runs courses in basket making and willow work throughout the year.

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