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Astrid Goddard reports

Out of the despair and tragedy of last year's Foot and Mouth crisis, and despite those many cases where farmers understandably gave up breeding their stock or left farming altogether, there are signs of hope growing up from the grass roots - making the deliberations and pontificating of the politicians almost irrelevant.

What form is this hope taking? One shining example of hard work and determination that is paying off for an entire community is a hugely successful farmers' market taking place in Longdon near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire every third Sunday each month.

Organised by foot and mouth campaigner Anne Mietke, whose partner Arthur Warner owns the Hunter's Inn Pub in Longdon, the event take places monthly in the grounds of the pub.

The first market was opened by Michael Spicer, the West Worcestershire MP.

Prince Charles was invited to launch the markets, and although he could not make it, he wrote expressing his wish to visit in the future, and wishing Anne good luck with the venture.

More than 250 people turned out to support the first market. And they were able to purchase locally grown produce, including fresh meat, vegetables, herbs, fruit, cakes and wine, as well as other items, many of which are organically grown and environmentally friendly.

Customers were delighted to have the opportunity to buy directly from the producers of the food, and asked many questions about how the meat was reared, and slaughtered as well as how the vegetables were grown. This was much to the delight of the farmers who were greatly encouraged and reassured by the interest shown, and by the discovery that so many people cared about farmers and their work.

During the Foot and Mouth crisis, Anne collected 6,000 signatures on a petition which she presented to 10 Downing Street, and campaigned for vaccination and against the culling policy.

Anne was involved in organising the successful protest against the cull at Oaklands Park Farm in the Forest of Dean. She is still campaigning, and is currently calling on the European Parliament to force the British Government to hold a public inquiry into the Foot and Mouth crisis.

The Hunter's Inn Farmer's Market takes place on the third Sunday of each month. The next is on 16th June. For further details, or advice on setting up a similar project, please phone 01684 833 388.

Having spoken with Anne and realised how successful and powerful a movement the Farmer's Markets could become, this is an example which could be followed around the country.

Rather than campaigning for the government to do something about the many failings of the present system, or for the supermarkets to pay a fair price and genuinely promote local produce -- instead of merely paying lip service to the ideal - we might instead work from the ground up, to create an alternative infrastructure that benefits producer and consumer alike.

All it takes is for farmers and concerned friends in each county, town, or village to find a space to rent on a regular basis, and invite stallholders to fill it, then advertise the event.

Self-help at its best!

Please send us dates, place and contact details of Farmers Markets near you, so we can publicise them on our list of Farmers Markets in the UK. Thank you.

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