THE monthly farmers’ market in Henley is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Stallholders are planning to mark the landmark on Thursday, April 22 with promotions, including a free raffle with a main prize of a hamper and balloons and a lucky dip for children.
The market is held in Market Place on the fourth Thursday of each month from 8.30am to 1.30pm.
Jill Rawnsley and her husband Geoff, from Bicester, ran a stall at the very first market.
She said: “There was an explosion of farmers’ markets 10 years ago when everyone wanted to buy locally sourced products.
“Since then, things have settled down and, of course, there has been the recession so customers who might have spent £20 two years ago now spend £10. Those 10 years in Henley have been good and we have some very loyal customers.”
Mrs Rawnsley said the worst time for the market was when new paving was put down in Market Place in 2003 and stallholders spent a year in the King’s Road car park.
This “took the wind out of our sails” but trade had picked up since they returned to Market Place.
The couple’s business has been handed on to their daughter Fay and her husband Neil Podro and now trades as Country Deli.
It has its own herd of pigs that produces pork, bacon and sausages, pies and other pork-based products, including pate, strudels and quiches.
Farmer Bruce Garside, 45, who breeds rare pigs in Hambleden and Skirmett, said: “I have been coming to the Henley farmers’ market for about a year and I think it is excellent.
“I have been able to package a lot of special offers and those are the kind of bargains Henley people like. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.” Another stallholder who was in at the beginning is Tim Lobb, of Brookleas Fish Farm, East Hendred, who sells fresh rainbow and brown trout, oak-smoked trout, smoked eel, pate and crayfish.
He said: “It has been a roller-coaster of a time for market traders and I think, on balance, we could do with more support. Though we have a hardcore of support, you need people to embrace you.”
Market manager Caroline Tyler, who runs a farm shop in Harwell, said: “The 10 years in Henley have seen us build up a loyal customer base. We feel that our day of celebration will be a good way of saying thank you to Henley. Please come and support us.”
The idea of a farmers’ market in Henley was championed by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson in March 2000.
This week, he said: “I still think it is a good idea but I think it needs a revamp. You cannot just jog along and expect the market to thrive. I think it also needs to be held on another day of the week so that everyone can benefit from it.”
He said it clashed with the normal weekly market and because it closed around lunchtime, office and shop workers missed out.
Worrall Thomspson, who is patron of the Thames Valley Farmers’ Market Association, said he thought other markets in the area were more “vibrant” and “driven” .
He said a good example was the Windsor farmers’ market, which has just celebrated its fifth anniversary.