The brand new season follows hot on the heels of the popular monthly Market’s glowing annual survey results and, according to Market organisers, there’s never been a better time to buy local!
Market organiser Lorna Jackson said: “The first Farmers’ Market of the year is a sure sign that spring is in the air, and we can’t wait to get started again.
It’s a perfect time to come to Saltburn and stay all day. Wander round the Market, the shops, the cafes, the art galleries, the salesrooms, the pier, and maybe even the beach and the woods. That’s what Saltburn’s all about.”
It all began one cold wintry Saturday in 2008. Frozen to the spot and at the mercy of an Arctic blast's icy grip, Lorna Jackson could have been forgiven for regretting her latest venture.
Huddling for warmth while a blizzard angrily swirled past, she had just launched the first Saltburn Farmer's Market amid bone-chilling Easter temperatures.
It may have been a slightly inauspicious start with some customers put off by the cold, but Lorna is made of sterner stuff and shrugged off those dark clouds, worked hard, and six years on has catapulted the farmers' market into a glowing beacon of locally-sourced food in the North-East.
From its humble beginnings, the monthly market, in Saltburn, east Cleveland, now attracts nearly 10,000 people, with mother-of-two Lorna hoping for continued success.
Lorna, who is a partner in her family-run business, Real Meals Deli, in Saltburn, said: “It was so cold back in 2008, we thought we would freeze if we didn’t keep moving, but we thought we had something special, and were determined to make it work.
We could feel in our bones that last year was just getting busier and busier as it went along, and we are confident we helped about 100,000 people come into the town last year.
Such is the market's success, traders now have to sign up to a waiting list before they can show off their produce to customers.
Lorna studied ecology at university before working as a farm manager in White Waltham, near Maidenhead.
But she is a North-East girl and knows all about a seaside town's unique fabric after picking up pocket money in her younger days by helping to run beach donkey rides.
She said the market was catering for consumers' precise needs, but revealed its origins were not so straightforward.
She said: “The organisers of a folk festival approached us and asked if we would mind if there was a market.
We had no problem at all, because, if anything, it was only going to increase awareness of good food.
We were then approached about a month later and asked if we wanted to run the market for them as a one-off.
It was extremely successful and someone who runs a Christmas celebration then approached us to do a market for that.
From that point, the market has grown and grown, and it creates such a nice feeling and liveliness in the town.
People have an appetite for how their food is produced and who is producing it, and those queries are answered instantly by the farmers' market.
It is like a theatre on the High Street, it is an exciting and vibrant place to be and people are swept up by that.”
Lorna said there has been a spiked increase after the horsemeat scandal, with customers more eager than ever to find out about their food.
She said: “The markets could not be more topical at the moment because of people's desire and need to know where their food is coming from but also exactly what it is.
That is part of the reason the markets have grown, and that point is made even more clearer when you see how television chefs like Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have brought important food issues, such as pig rearing and chicken farming into focus.
The market is great for giving people the information they want and that has been reflected in its success.”
The market returns on Saturday, March 9, and organisers also hope to stage a food festival in August, with Lorna excitedly looking to the future.
She said: “I love the markets and the deli, there is such a good mix of work, but one of the best parts is choosing the products, we taste test our meats, cheeses and salamis, which is fantastic.
But I also enjoy the customer relationship side of the business, engaging with people and talking to them because we have such a great mix of customers.
We wanted to get the appetite for food, rather than squash it, and we have.
Once you get people trying and liking something, they never go back.”
Saltburn Farmers’ Market returns for a brand new season on Saturday 9 March at 9am, just outside Sainsbury’s, near the Railway Station. A popular mix of favourite stalls and special guests sell a mix of fresh seasonal fruit & veg, meat & game, free-range eggs, honey & jams, cakes & fudge, wild mushrooms, fresh herbs & chillies, wine & cheese, plus a range of local art & crafts.