RIP Greenwich Farmers Market

So, there I was, eco bags in spectral paw, standing puzzled outside some very locked gates this morning. No signs, no notice, no discreet email – if not to me to someone, would have been useful.

I guess it was inevitable, really. A market needs two things and they need each other. One, enough stalls and produce to tempt hordes of people to visit, and two, enough people to tempt hordes of stalls to decamp there in the first place.

Greenwich farmers market at its very outset didn’t really have enough stalls to make it work, and many of them were ‘specialist’ – I mean a Phantom only has use for so many logs impregnated with fungal spores, and probably won’t need more than one cupcake stall per trip.

People did turn up that first morning, but the size of that day’s market probably meant punters decided then and there they’d only prefer this one to Blackheath if they actually lived in East Greenwich or West Charlton – it just wasn’t exciting enough to bring visitors from further afield. From then on, it seemed to go on a downward spiral and though much of the produce was good (I’ll mourn the Kentish cheddar, personally) there just wasn’t enough choice to make people travel any kind of distance to visit specially, and unlike Blackheath, which is surrounded by the village and shops, you had to make a special trip to Halstow School, with only the cafe in the park as a companion-destination.

And of course the stallholders travel miles too (which has always bothered me – surely the idea of local produce is that your tomatoes come from down the road, not the Isle of Wight…) One of the meat guys travelled god-knows-how-many food miles from Up North to be there – and to not sell enough sausages/joints/pies to cover his petrol can’t have endeared him to the project, much as his bacon sandwiches will be missed.

I’ve heard that stall hire on farmers markets in general is too much for other, smaller traders to take an initial punt and perhaps this also contributed to this one’s demise. Perhaps Saturdays are already popular with other, more established markets and stallholders already had pitches elsewhere. Perhaps once a week was too often.  Perhaps it was too far East and should have been somewhere just off Traf Road – Meridian School, for example.  Or there is that other ‘perhaps’ – perhaps East Greenwich just plain isn’t posh enough to support non-supermarket shopping.

I once asked the cheese lady how it was going and inadvertently launched a tirade of fury which seemed to be aimed at me personally for not forcibly dragging my neighbours along every week. And she might have a point.

They built it. We didn’t come.


10 Comments to “RIP Greenwich Farmers Market”

  1. Steve says:

    They shot themselves in the foot.

    When it first started, there were various dates when it was supposed to be open but wasn’t. They didn’t bother to put signs up to say what was happening, and they didn’t even bother to tell Lizzie in the park cafe (a useful conduit for local information). Out of the four times I tried to go there, it was closed twice. That hardly encourages a loyal customer base. Maybe it got more reliable after that, but I’d given up by then.

    Also, as you say, it was a pretty narrow range of produce that was available.

  2. Richard says:

    The location probably also worked against it. Why would people in Blackheath bother going there, ditto those around the food shops on Royal Hill? Also if you live near Greenwich mainline its just as easy to get to Borough Market.

  3. rob says:

    It was only running for a couple of months. I went a few times, but seriously, they need to give these things more of a chance before they give up. It takes a while for everyone to catch on to the idea – they shut it far too soon.

  4. Dazza says:

    I live just across the Woolwich Road from Halstow and if it hadn’t been for this esteemed blog, I wouldn’t have known it existed!
    This is something I think Greenwich does really badly, no ‘local’ what’s on!! I know that you, dear Phantom, try your best to include more local things, but surely there should be a better way of letting people know what’s happening in our own back yard.
    As Steve says, if they can’t be bothered to tell Lizzie…..well

  5. cerletone says:

    I visited a great farmers market this morning. unfortunately it was in Petersfield, so a bit of a trek once a month, but certainly the best one I’ve ever been to. Mind you, the pain au chocolat I bought was stale and the goats cheese (apparently an award winning vintage one) was absolutely foul.

  6. Lara says:

    CCFM have been running this market on and off in the Pleasaunce and at Halstow for quite a while. It just hasn’t quite stuck.

    They have asked for more suggestions of where to have the market on their Facebook page if you want to help…

  7. Adam says:

    We are all in mourning in E Greenwich – I too found locked gates – are we sure it is RIP and not just in stasis?

  8. You know what, Adam, I’m not sure I care. They’ve had that many false alarms of opening/not opening where I bowled up and it wasn’t on, I’ve now given up. It’s a shame but there’s only so many times I personally am going to trudge across on the offchance…

  9. Emma says:

    I went once, traveling from Abbey Wood. For me the high percentage of cake and craft stands didn’t make it worth a second visit.

  10. Penny Lane says:

    Ii think it’s a real shame that locals didn’t get behind this one. I didn’t buy anything that was stupidly expensive, but what I did buy was stuff I couldn’t find in Sainsburys and also very seasonal stuff which was a lot cheaper than Sainsburys. A sad loss.