Market plan is a sham

PUBLISHED: 15:24 27 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:37 31 May 2010

I have read with interest your front page article concerning the proposal to have a sustainable food market in town to promote food grown in the area to benefit local farmers . On the surface, this sounds wonderfully pastoral and a return to some golden

I have read with interest your front page article concerning the proposal to have a sustainable food market in town 'to promote food grown in the area to benefit local farmers'.

On the surface, this sounds wonderfully pastoral and a return to some golden age in which ruddy faced farmers cheerily sold all their varied produce to local families in a fresh and wholesome, wholly sustainable way. Like motherhood and apple pie, who could possibly be against it?

Forgive me, however, if I stifle a little incredulity.

I don't know who defines 'local' in this context, but let's be extremely generous and take a 10-mile radius from the centre of Saffron Walden, thus from Shelford in the north to Elsenham in the south, and west to east from Barley to just outside Haverhill.

That's a massive area of about 310 square miles, or nearly 200,000 acres, the vast majority of which is arable farmland, and is surely enough to supply us all with all our needs.

In that area, based on the average farm size in England, there will be about 1500 farms and therefore 1500 local farmers.

Again, more than enough, I would have thought, to supply a market town.

But let's look at what's actually grown in this massive area. Is it lovely nutritious potatoes, carrots, cabbages, peas and beans? Is it apples, pears and cherries? Is it cattle and sheep?

No, the answer, as is screamingly obvious from any country walk, is that it's actually wheat and rape. On nearly all of it in fact. There's very, very little of anything else.

So, given that wheat and rape are not exactly huge sellers at town markets, just who precisely are the 'local' farmers such a market would benefit?

If the answer is, er, well, there aren't any really apart from 'organic' or 'sustainable' hobbyists, then I'm sorry but the whole thing is just a new-age sentimental sham.

Norman Wells, Saffron Walden

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