Riverside Community Market Association

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Riverside market has, for many, become an integral part of Cardiff life. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than enjoying a leisurely coffee on the Fitzhamon Embankment?

But with recent reports that fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families has fallen by 30 per cent, how is the Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) coping with current financial and commercial pressures?

Preconceptions

Gareth Simpson, Enterprise Development Manager for the RCMA, said: “People have a lot of preconceptions about our markets. Many think it’s beyond their means, but actually, buying fresh produce directly from the traders can be cheaper than going to a supermarket.”

He added: “It’s never been about trying to get people to do their weekly shop at the market, but if more people thought about buying some of their fruit and vegetables from our stall holders on a regular basis, it would make a whole world of difference.”

Social enterprise

Although Gareth has only been working for the RCMA since last May, the social enterprise has been running since 1998, when the Riverside Real Food Market was first launched. Since then, the project has expanded, and now runs farmers’ markets in Llandaff North, Rhiwbina and Roath, as well as co-ordinating the Riverside community allotment and a variety of outreach projects.

Gareth said: “The aim is to bring the countryside to the city. Many people have never had the chance to grow their own vegetables and we are trying to spread the message of growing in a fun way. The community allotment allows people to get their hands in the mud and really get involved.”

Weather dependent

However, as with all outdoor events, the markets are highly weather dependent.  Gareth said: “Footfall suffers in the driving rain.” At present, there is little shelter at the market, but he is hoping to introduce a covered area for live music.

“I always try to create a buzz at the markets,” he said. “It’s not about just filling your shopping bag, it’s very much a social event.” Recently, Gareth created a buskers’ corner at Riverside Market, which gives local musicians the chance to show off their talent and entertain the crowd.

Innovative

The RCMA also tries to bring a wide variety of products to the markets. Gareth said: “We avoid putting similar stalls together, so new products have to be quite innovative. We don’t like to turn people away, but sometime we have to. A little competition can be a good thing.”

Two new stalls have recently joined the Riverside market. Greens of Glastonbury is a traditional farmhouse cheesemaker, while cnwd is based near Carmarthen and produces patés and terrines.

For more information, visit the RCMA website.

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Riverside Real Food Market

Vegetable stall at Riverside Real Food Market

I won’t lie, I wasn’t entirely keen to get up early on a miserable, grey Sunday morning. And neither was I feeling too enthusiastic about the mile-long walk through the drizzle. My friend, who was nursing a rather nasty hangover, was even less enthusiastic than me.

However, I’d heard such good things about the Riverside Real Food Market, I was determined to go and find out what it could offer a hungry vegetarian.

Riverside Community Market Association

Riverside Real Food Market

The market nestles on the western bank of the River Taff, in the shadow of Cardiff’s imposing Millennium Stadium. It runs from 10am until 2pm every Sunday and offers around 30 stalls.

The market is run by the Riverside Community Market Association and was started in 1998 by a group of local food enthusiasts. Since then, it has continued to expand, attracting both locals and visitors. A recent survey showed that more than 1600 people attend the market on a typical Sunday.

Suzanne Olsen, Site Manager, said: “Visitor numbers took a dive during the recession, but they are recovering now. People are realising that fresh and organic food is not as expensive as they thought.”

The first thing we noticed was the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the market. The stall holders are passionate about their work and will take the time to explain exactly where they source their ingredients and how they make their products.

The Parsnipship

The Parsnipship

When it came to vegetarian stalls, we were spoilt for choice. We started by wandering over to the The Parsnipship, a co-operative that prides itself on offering 21st century vegetarian cuisine. The collective was founded by Ben Moss in 2009 and recruits and trains vegetarian cooks to run their own businesses, by cooking and selling locally sourced, seasonal food at farmers’ markets.

Ben said: “Our aim is to change the perception of vegetarian and vegan cooking in this country.” He added: “80% of our customers are not vegetarian or vegan, but they are changing their eating habits from carnivore at least a couple of times a week.”

I tried a spinach and potato cake, which was absolutely delicious. It was beautifully browned on top and the spinach was very tender and fresh. The care of presentation and the combination of herbs made a very simple recipe into something really special.

The Cardiff Herb Company

Cardiff Herb Company

Next, we headed to the Cardiff Herb Company, which sells a range of organic herbs and herbal teas.The company grows all of its fresh-cut herbs and herb plants in both Cardiff and St Hilary, South Wales, and donates 10% of its profits to the Canton Community Garden.

Victoria Welles, who runs the company, said: “I love my job. I get to spend my days planting and picking herbs. It’s very physical work, but it’s a great lifestyle.”

I tried a sample of rose tea, which contained rose petals, vanilla pods and rosehips. The tea had a delicate, fragrant scent and a light and subtle flavour. Elena bought a pack of “Awake” tea, which contains elderflower, lime and peppermint and is designed to be energising, fresh and clean. Maybe this will help us through our 9 o’ clock lectures…

All-vegan

Frantastic Crepes

With our palettes cleansed, we couldn’t resist the alluring smell of veggie burgers and made our way over to the all-vegan Frantastic Crepes. The stall is run by a wonderfully bubbly woman called Fran Munro, who makes a mean veggie burger! All of her products are locally sourced and freshly made. I tried a black-eyed bean burger, which had a delicious combination of spices and was served with a tangy homemade chutney.

As if that wasn’t enough to entice you to the stall, Fran has made us a kind offer and says anyone who quotes thegreenveggie when they buy a bean burger will be given a free Welsh cake (which I can thoroughly recommend!)

Fresh and healthy

Riverside market stall

After my early morning reluctance to get out of bed, I left the market feeling contented with life, and Elena’s hangover had been miraculously cured. I would entirely recommend a trip to the Riverside Real Food Market. It will give you that warm, fuzzy glow inside, knowing that you’re buying fresh, healthy food and supporting the local economy, but most importantly, it’s just plain tasty!