Achonry Farmer’s Market has been “one of the few positives to come out of a very difficult period” for one local community.
The community-based market, the brainchild of a sub-committee within the local Coolaney/Mullinabreena GAA Club in south Sligo, began in August 2020 as a lockdown idea.
The market is aimed at the local community and those around south and central county Sligo. However, it reaches further afield, attracting many passing visitors and interested customers.
Achonry Farmer’s Market
The local hub assisted its rural area through the worst of the pandemic and continues to help combat rural isolation.
The committee established the market with three key aims:
- 1: Supporting small, local food and craft businesses;
- 2: Creating a community hub to socialise and combat rural isolation;
- 3: Generate some income to develop its community facilities.
The market officially launched on Saturday, August 15th, 2020, and is approaching its first year in business in the coming weeks.
Produce and crafts from local businesses
A spokesperson for the market told That’s Farming: “Most likely, the market would not have started but for the pandemic. However, the idea has been on the agenda for some years, and we finally got to explore it.”
The market is home to food stalls from fruit and veg, fresh fish, fresh-baked breads, sweet treats, fresh desserts, preserves, free-range eggs and pre-prepared meals.
Furthermore, there are crafts from wood crafts, candles, handmade cards, children’s crafts, local artists, photography, framed gifts and upcycled gifts.
“We currently have 25 traders with us weekly, split between food and craft. Also, we have a waiting list of traders wishing to join.”
“We have two junior entrepreneur traders in Dan’s Farm Fresh Eggs and Rory Price Woodcraft. Both are 15-year-old farmers, and we are delighted, as a committee, to support their efforts in the world of business.”
“Furthermore, we operate with the aid of a great team of 60 volunteers each Saturday morning from 10 am to 1 pm.”
Starting the market from scratch
In March 2021, the market received €13,600 from the Department of Agriculture Rural Innovation Development Fund towards market infrastructure, which they will use to construct new market chalets.
The project began with a “very limited” budget and a steel frame stall which they borrowed from a neighbouring group.
“However, to counter this, the response from locals to support the initiative was huge as a result of the pandemic. The help we get from a cohort of over 50 volunteers is also amazing.”
“Our biggest challenges were commencing a market with a very limited budget and having to borrow equipment. Also, the market itself closed for three months at the height of the pandemic.”
“Our objectives remain as we set out originally. After a successful first year in business, we now aim to invest in the market to future proof it for years to come hopefully.”
“Without a doubt, customers are now far more conscious about food miles. They are increasingly looking to source more locally produced goods. The response to local foods has been one of the real positives of our market.”
“It is also really encouraging to see a community coming together in such numbers to volunteer for such a positive initiative.”
The group has a plan to invest in market infrastructure to ease the burden on its volunteers in setting up each weekend.
With the aid of some grant money, a team of volunteers plan to build 20 trader chalets to future proof the market.
“We have five already built and installed. Other plans include a brand-new catering cart,” the spokesperson added.
“We are a great example of a rural community showing initiative to breathe a bit of life back into our area during a pandemic and difficult times economically.”
“The support from our community has been incredible, and the help from over 50 volunteers shows the potential there when you reach out. The number of local businesses who also joined us as startups is also really encouraging,” the spokesperson concluded.
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