Getting down with the farmers

PUBLISHED: 12:07 08 May 2014

Plot 2 Plot

Plot 2 Plot

Archant

The first farmers’ and craft market at Oaklands College’s St Albans campus took place last weekend and proved very successful, with a good variety of stalls and plenty of people strolling around, buying seasonal, locally produced food.

If you don’t know Oaklands very well, it is well worth visiting for the next market on May 24. There is plenty of free parking on site at the weekends, but it is a lovely walk or bike ride, especially as it is not far from the Alban Way.

As you walk down the sweeping drive through fields and woodland, there is a pond on the right, and the market stalls are tucked away near the centre of the college buildings to the left. The market will be once a month to start with, on a Saturday, to fit in with the Royal Market Charter of 1553, and they already have a useful range of stalls, including Redbournbury Mill bread, meat, fish, cakes, honey, wine and fruit and vegetable plants. It is open from 9am-2pm.

Martin from Redbournbury Mill was doing well and it is a useful opportunity to buy bread rather than having to drive over to Redbourn – ideal if you live on the Marshalswick/Fleetville side of town. I was delighted to see the Country Markets stall, as they always have lovely cakes, quiches and biscuits.

I also found home-made custard creams shaped like butterflies and flowers, made by The Cake Stand Bakery, which were delicious. When I checked the packaging afterwards I realised they were gluten-free, as are most items on their stall.

Gunther’s honey was available, and we also bought a joint of lamb, which had a wonderful flavour. Barn Bacon are there, selling ham, pork pies, bacon, sausages and burgers, and Simon Long is selling fish, including smoked.

It was lovely to see Frithsden Vineyard with a stall; they produce wine near Hemel Hempstead, and it is well worth buying a bottle for a truly English meal. You could also get advice on starting your own allotment and raising chickens from Plot 2 Plot. Live chickens cost £15 each, and you could order a bespoke chicken run for them to live in.

I spoke to Jenny Titmuss, the organiser, and she said that there is space for a few more stalls, so if you are interested, contact her on themarketsatoaklands@yahoo.co.uk. I have talked to independent food producers recently who have found it difficult to get a stall at the St Albans city centre farmers’ market, so this could be an excellent way to find a new outlet. Jenny would like to encourage more local companies to take stalls (prices are reasonable), and also maintain variety – I think more fresh vegetables and fruit would be welcome, and I was surprised not to see the Oaklands eggs for sale - but it is early days!

The next dates are: May 24, June 28, July 26, August 23, September 20 and October 18.

In other news – the St Albans Food and Drink Festival will run from September 24 to October 6. It will start with the Harpenden farmers’ market on the first Sunday and finish with the street festival finale in St Albans town centre on Sunday, October 5, and the Awards on Monday, October 6.

In an attempt to give everyone more time to nominate their favourite business for the prestigious awards, nominations are now open!

If you would like to nominate a restaurant, bar, pub, café, market stall or any other foodie-type business, go to enjoystalbans.com.

After complaints and general confusion over the definition of categories last year, the steering group has worked to clarify the awards – do let us know if you have feedback by emailing Steven.Basing@stalbans.gov.uk. You have until June 2 to nominate, with voting from July 1 until September 7.

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