ANYONE who thinks of food shopping as being a bit of a chore obviously hasn’t been to a Hampshire Farmers’ Market.

As well as offering a fantastic range of top quality local produce at competitive prices it’s also a great day out.

Of course, if you’re in a hurry you can take a similar approach to the one you adopt in a supermarket, rushing round with your shopping list and picking up the vegetables, meat, dairy produce, preserves and even ready meals that you need for your week’s shopping.

But a more leisurely approach is far more rewarding.

Over the ten years that the market has been running, it has developed and now offers more than just somewhere to do your shopping.

Lots of the stalls offer samples of their produce to help you make your decision, whether you’re choosing between varieties of anything from apple juice to chutney.

The markets also often have demonstration kitchens and taster stalls, showing you how to prepare food available at the market that day and to give it a try.

There are also hot food stands so you can take a break from shopping and treat yourself to a local beef burger or a mushroom buttie.

There are 127 Hampshire Farmers’ Market traders in total though, of course, they don’t all attend every market.

The largest market on the circuit is Winchester, with up to 96 stalls.

Hampshire Farmers’ Market business manager, Alex Hanford, says people are always surprised by the range of stalls at the markets.

“We don’t only have food here, we also have plants, furniture makers, wool and more,” she says.

“There is a lovely variety of produce.

“I think we’re pretty unique in what we offer. We pride ourselves on supplying Hampshire produce. Our producers have to adhere to very strict criteria to trade at the market and the secondary producers (who make products such as pies and jam) have to use at least 30 per cent local ingredients.

“We work hard to maintain the standards as we’re selling on that point – people come because these are local producers and they want to keep money in the local economy.”

Despite the recession, Alex says that none of the Hampshire Farmers’ Market traders have gone out of business.

“We had one trader retire last year – a bee keeper – but we haven’t had anyone go under. The traders are pretty resourceful and they diversify – for instance a number have gone into pie making.”

There are Hampshire Farmers’ Markets at a number of locations across the county, including Winchester, Romsey, Petersfield and Chandler’s Ford, and Alex hopes to expand further.

“In May we start to look for new market sites. We want to work on joint initiatives with other groups to get more markets set up. The aim of the market is to provide local food for local people so we want to spread the markets out further across the county.”

• For more information about Hampshire Farmers’ Markets, visit