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When I was younger, I didn’t really see why people demonised supermarkets for encroaching on small businesses’ territory. I regarded it as the next logical step, a way of making an arduous trek between lots of smaller shops quicker and more convenient. In many ways this idea still applies, but since arriving at university I began to value these independent sellers; they have a vital part to play in our community and deserve our attention for the quality local goods they make available.
Obviously many of us visit the on-campus farmers markets during the week. If you don’t, I urge you to do so: it’s quieter than the supermarket, for many of you it’s closer, just a short walk from your halls, and you can wander around at your leisure without having to compete with any queues or the doddery old ladies with an unruly trolley at Sainsburys. And you’ll definitely want to go back the next week. I bought some lamb and mint burgers off the meat stall a few weeks ago out of curiosity and found them to be excellent. No fat or gristle: just good, honest meat. It puts the often rubbery counterparts in the supermarkets to shame. Similarly, I’ve bought cakes at the market on two occasions and have been pleasantly surprised by the gentleman manning the stall: he’s been enthusiastic, friendly and clearly knowledgeable about his wares, telling me how to serve the cake and how long to keep it for. At this rate, I’ll be purchasing my birthday cake from there.
So, we have this accessibility on campus when they come to visit. But I feel that we should also aim to try and support these smaller businesses where convenience might dictate otherwise: instead of automatically visiting the Spar or Sainsburys, we should visit the smaller businesses first where possible. I imagine they need the custom far more than the big chains do, and the produce almost always turns out to be far better. The vegetables are normally larger and cheaper, sometimes with the earth still on them they are that fresh. I feel almost transported back in time, to an era when food is produced with care and attention rather than for pure profitability. Sure, we might have to walk a little further, and these stalls may not offer everything we need. But a lot of the things we need are here, if only we’d look for them. And the food may be slightly more expensive, but so far, in my experience, it’s been very reasonably priced: £1.20 for two courgettes the size of a baby’s arm? 50p for a big bag of new potatoes, still covered in soil? Sold.
So, here’s to independent sellers. Here’s to local produce, from local people. Here’s to good food for good money. I urge you to do the same.