Cardiff’s first farmers’ market, Riverside Market, reaches a milestone quarter century this month. The 1998-originated event wasn’t just the first in Cardiff but the first in Wales, full-stop – and only the second in the UK after Bath.
“I was born in Wrexham in 1950, so I am one of the ‘sixties generation’ and still share its values,” founder Steve Garrett reflected over a decade ago in WeAreCardiff. “I’ve always loved markets, and after living in different parts of Europe and Canada, I came back to Wales in 1993 to work at Community Music Wales in Cardiff, carrying in the back of my mind the idea of setting up a farmers’ market here.”
A socially conscious business model for the market came from studying at the School Of Social Enterprises, established by the Open University’s Michael Young, and after a successful opening with 12 stalls, became a monthly and then weekly fixture. Eight years on, it expanded and relocated to the Taff Embankment, opposite the Millennium Stadium. Today, there are over 1,000 farmer’s markets up and down the UK.
At the time, Garrett also expressed disappointment – given his background – that farmers’ markets were seen as existing for the benefit of an elitist niche while extolling the importance of high-quality, local produce that he predicted would become more important as environmental issues would increasingly affect the international supply chain. Of course, he wouldn’t have seen Brexit or COVID coming, but it’s certainly (and sadly) true that worsening climate change has negatively impacted food security. Today, around 15% of consumers visit farmers’ markets at least once a month, but food importing has increased sharply since 2021.
While Garrett is no longer directly involved in Riverside Market, he’s still delighted by it and others’ success, saying: “[Farmers’ markets] make it possible for more people in Cardiff to enjoy the best of Welsh food, and more local producers to make a living doing what they love – and contributing to a strong and sustainable Welsh economy.” Carol Adams, the market’s current General Manager, adds that Riverside is “a testament to the power of community support, and the enduring value of locally sourced, sustainable food.”
The market has also proven to be a strong foundation for fresh cooking talent, such as Deri Reed, proprietor of Carmarthen’s award-winning The Warren. “The time I spent trading at Riverside was incredibly magical for me. It allowed me to meet my customers, test my ideas and have access to the best produce Wales has to offer – and I have been buying produce from some of them ever since.”
To mark the 25th anniversary, Riverside Farmers’ Market will be making some special additions to its lineup on Sun 10 Sept, with live music, food demonstrations and tastings between 10.30 am and 1 pm.
Riverside Farmers’ Market, Fitzhamon Embankment, Cardiff, every Sunday (10 am-2 pm).
words HANNAH COLLINS