A growing success

Norton Farmer's Market: Richard Dare from Greenfingers shows one of his plants to show organsier Lesley Hibbert
Norton Farmer's Market: Richard Dare from Greenfingers shows one of his plants to show organsier Lesley Hibbert

DESPITE the drizzle, organisers of Norton Farmers’ Market were satisfied with the turnout for their fourth craft and food market, held on the local village green, in the churchyard and even inside the 12th century church itself.

“We started the market two years ago with only ten stalls, but we’ve now grown to our capacity of 50,” said Sally Vardy. “It’s amazing the number of people who’ve come today.”

Sally and her fellow organiser, Lesley Hibbert, were equally impressed by the number of stallholders who had signed up.

“I had no idea there were so many people doing these kinds of things around here,” she said, of the wide variety of craftworkers, farmers and food producers the market had inspired.

On the border of Sheffield, Norton has the advantage of being less than a mile from farming country, with Moss Valley Fine Meats and the Hazelhurst Cooperative based off Lightwood Lane represented, along with Whirlow Hall Farm and a variety of bread, cheese and bun makers.

There were also stalls from small local craftworkers, and community groups including the local rainbows and brownies, Handsworth Boys Brigade and the Greenfingers project based at Norton Nurseries.

Several local charities were also represented including Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline, who provide a break in Sheffield every year for children from the area around the former Chernobyl power plant, and Ellie Thompson and family from ‘Ellie’s Heroes’, who are holding a charity auction today (Thursday) to raise money for children’s cancer charities.

Lesley Hibbert estimated that the four farmers’ markets held so far (two a year) had raised over £2,000, with another £1,000 expected from Saturday’s event. Money goes to the upkeep of the Norman church, with restoration of internal plasterwork and disabled access a current priority.

Lesley and Sally both attend the church, and came up with the idea of the Norton market after being inspired by the very successful market at Nether Edge. The Norton versions are held in April and October (to try to avoid the summer flowers along the church path, said Lesley), but the first to be held was almost a disaster.

“Everyone said we were being quite brave to set it up, then there was a huge snowfall the night before,” said Lesley.

“But the farmers from Moss Valley came and cleared the roads with their snow plough and quite a number of people turned up in the end.”

The church restoration fundraising was only part of the idea.

“It’s mainly an initiative to bring the community together, and to open up the church for lots of people to enjoy it and see it.

“People who don’t generally come to church will come to an event like this. Today one chap who lives nearby said he’d never been inside this church before.”

On Saturday the Sheffield City Morris Men also performed to entertain the visitors.

“People are saying it makes Norton feel just like a village, even though it’s in a big city,” said Sally.

“Norton was in Derbyshire in the past, and when you read books about those times a lot of the old traditions have gone, and you hear that people don’t mix as much as they used to. But I hope that’s changing. I’ve seen a number of people greeting each other this morning, and people stood talking as much as buying.”

Lesley and Sally had around six helpers for the event, and both hope the Norton Market could expand, and maybe inspire other local groups to try their own markets.

“I’d say if you think you could do it, just have a go,” said Sally. “We never dreamed that in two years it would grow to 50 stalls.”

She sees a real interest in buying from small local suppliers.

“If you come here, it’s fresh, it’s local, it’s supporting someone’s local business and being proud of where you live,” said Lesley. “You feel part of it all and you can hold your head up high and say you don’t have to line the pockets of the big giants.”

It’s still early days for the Norton Market, but Sally and Lesley are keen to see the interest grow in supporting farmers from the village on the edge of Derbyshire.

“I hope we’re planting seeds for that sort of thought,” said Lesley.

“Many people have said we should hold a market more often. I hope we might even be able to open it up so producers could ring up when they’ve got something to sell, and maybe even bring their cart onto the village green. That would be lovely, like it was in medieval times. It would be great to try and get people to support that.”