Should Farmers’ Markets ever have been closed?

By Milo Morrod 


Yes, we’ve missed pubs and restaurants during the lockdown since Christmas. But there is nothing quite like a farmers’ market to bring a little joy to the soul. 

The pork pies, those chunky sausages and succulent olives. The crusty homebaked loaves and groaning tables of vegetables. Now, one of the country’s most agreeable markets has returned with a vengeance - and just in time for Spring.

The question is: should it ever have been closed?

According to some of the stallholders at the reopened market last weekend, it should have been allowed to carry on throughout recent months - because it’s all outdoors.

Barbara McCloud, who sells Sussex Pies, told me: ‘The closure has affected us dramatically, because Surbiton is our biggest market. Other markets have closed, too. I did get some support from the government a year ago, but nothing since then.’

So did she agree with the imperative to close the market - and keep it closed at a time when cases were falling dramatically? Her view was clear: ‘Markets should not have been closed because they’re in the open air.’

The Surbiton Farmers’ Market is held once a month on Maple Road, close to the Thames riverside. It’s already won awards, and tempts foodies from around South-West London, as well as locals shopping for a Saturday morning lunch to savour.

The closing of the market has presented challenges to many of the stallholders, many of whom who rely on the custom to make ends meet.

Another trader, named Kevin - a cheesemonger - was relatively upbeat and said the closure of markets ‘hasn’t affected me at the moment too much because, although some of the independent markets have been closed, we’ve branched out into other parts of London.’ However, he said he’d had no government support throughout.

On one point he was clear: farmers’ markets should not have been closed. Why? ‘Because government guidelines said it was better be outside in an open environment.’

Another stallholder, Donald, who sells olives, was upbeat, pointing out that ‘most of the markets where we do business have been open.’ He suggested Surbiton had been unusual in closing.

What’s undoubtedly the case is that it has been a tough few months for those who make and sell food and drink at London’s street markets. Donald told me he ‘had had some government support in the form of a grant’, but there is no doubt it has been economically challenging for many people in this business.


For now, we should all celebrate the fact that farmers markets are reopening across the country. Mustard sausages anyone?