Booming business at Ballantrae farmers’ market

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FOOD enthusiasts from Carrick showed their appreciation for local produce on Saturday when Ballantrae hosted its first farmers’ market.

Organised by Ballantrae Development Group (a sub-committee of the community council) in partnership with Ayrshire Farmers’ Market Co-Operative, Savour the Flavours and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere project, people flocked to Craigiemains Garden Centre from across the region to get a taste of the action.

Pearl McGibbon of The Hidden Garden, Pinmore, tempts passers-by with her tasty jams and preserves.

Pearl McGibbon of The Hidden Garden, Pinmore, tempts passers-by with her tasty jams and preserves.

And despite competing with prestigious food events including Kirkcudbright Food Festival and the BBC Good Food Show, organisers and stallholders alike were impressed by the visitor numbers.

Susan Crosthwaite, owner of Ballantrae luxury B&B Cosses Country House, said: “I think it’s great for Ballantrae, and the turnout has been brilliant. It’s been great to be able to support both Dumfries and Galloway food and Ayrshire food.”

Girvan carpenter Stuart Clachan agreed, claiming numbers where much higher than he had anticipated when initially setting up his Clachan Wood display, while GC Growers from Girvan’s Dowhill Farm said their sales had been better than at Kilmarnock Farmers’ Market - an established event for 12 years - the day previously.

While customers had varied reasons for going along, most said they were encouraged by the outlet for local products from the Carrick region, which they felt was missing between Ayr and southern areas of Dumfries and Galloway.

Barrhill’s Colin and Penny Keane only moved to the area in May, and said they had been disappointed at the lack of markets in their immediate vicinity. “There is just a void between the big developments in Ayr and the market in Castle Douglas,” said Colin.

“We are absolutely amazed that in somewhere this big, and a rural area, there is not a market anywhere. I think it would be popular.”

Lesley Martin, a Glenapp Estate resident who came from near Cairnryan for Saturday’s market, said: “I have only been here for five years and you don’t really know what is in your area, so it’s good to have something like this to go to,” while Ballantrae’s Peter and Janice Newland welcomed the market for the opportunity to buy one-off gifts and produce.

There was also a keen contingent of Carrick entrepreneurs among the market’s stallholders, from whom produce from more than 20 local suppliers was on offer.

Pearl McGibbon runs her herbal gift and preserves business, The Hidden Garden, from Pinmore and exhibits at farmers markets throughout the year.

“This was something my husband and I have talked about for ages,” she said. “You are combining the top half of Dumfries and Galloway and the bottom half of Ayrshire, because there is a big gap in the middle that could do with some enterprise. If this could be a regular thing that would be great.”

Sarah Redman, of Barrhill’s infant artisan food business, Creeside Charcuterie, added: “This is fantastic because it is a local event.

“I have been having to travel quite long distances to get to farmers markets and events like this since we opened six weeks ago, so to have something this close is great. It is always nice to meet your local customers.”

Project leader and Development Group member Colin McNally said: “We could not have asked for better weather, and the crowds followed with a really good turnout of locals and visitors, with many asking would we be doing it again. We’ll certainly be considering the prospect of another Farmers’ Market sometime in the future.”