IT’S that smell of the fresh baked scones and delicious breads that first lures you in. And once you enter the Bandon Country Market premises on Weir Street, it’s hard not to part with your cash, such is the wide and delicious range of goods on offer.
For 40 years, almost without fail, members of the market have been selling their wares every Friday and Saturday morning, much to the delight of shoppers in Bandon, who make it their mission to pop in, have a chat, and purchase their weekly produce. It’s these simple things that have ensured that the market has survived down over the past 40 years and with a dedicated team at the helm it’s sure to last another 40.
When a group of farmers’ wives first set up the Bandon Country Market back in December 1976, little did they realise that it would be still thriving so many years later. Back then the market was based in Bandon Creamery where the main items on offer were free-range eggs and baked goods, but in recent years it moved to the premises on Weir Street – which is open every Friday and Saturday from 9.30am to 1pm.
‘I think there were a lot of farming households who were looking at ways to boost their income and to sell seasonal produce like vegetables, as well as free-range eggs and home baking,’ said Marguerite McQuaid, PRO for Bandon Country Market, speaking about the origins of the endeavour.
‘Bandon Country Market is a co-operative and everyone takes their turn to man the market, to clean it and to keep it in good condition. At the very first meeting 40 years ago, there were 100 members present so that shows you the demand that was there for it back then. We have about 25 members at present but we’re always looking for new people to join.
‘What’s really interesting about the initial set up back in 1976 was that it was during a time when home produce was really out of fashion, as you had all the big labels like Coca Cola and Kraft and the supermarkets all trying to come in and they were dominating the scene back then. I guess most countries sort of went through a consumer revolution back then and the home baking side of things were quite hard to get. What’s good about our country market is that we sell a lot of seasonal produce along with jams and fresh cordials which you can’t get anywhere else.’
Marguerite herself is a relatively new member of Bandon Country Market, having only joined 18 months ago as a fully-fledged member, but the Glasgow native had been a regular visitor since she moved to Bandon several years ago. She loved the variety of breads on sale and she decided she would like to do something like that herself.
‘It becomes a bit of an obsession since I joined and I am always baking and thinking of ideas. What’s great too is that there is gluten-free baking, and that’s something that can be hard for people to get, especially things like gluten-free birthday cakes, which they can order here. The people here are amazingly organised and they run an amazing and efficient ship. But more importantly, they’re a great bunch of people. They keep working and keep coming up with great produce. They’re a force to be reckoned with.’
The members are all from Bandon and the surrounding areas who pay an annual membership fee of €25 to the Country Market Association of Ireland. And members are necessarily from farming households either, although that may have been the case in the early years.
There are a number of events lined up throughout the year to mark the 40th anniversary. ‘We have Darina Allen coming here in August as she backs the idea of home economy and using local produce. We will also have special events throughout the year including tasting events on Friday mornings as well as competitions, new-season offerings, not to mention our monthly draw.’
For some people it’s their weekly outing and shoppers pop in to get their fix of apple pies, which the market is famous for.
‘For the past 40 years the members have kept up the market and some other people are bringing in crafts too which is adding another dimension to the experience. I think it’s really good for Bandon too that the Farmer’s Market takes place every Saturday – the two markets seem to compliment each other and they’re bringing people into the town,’ added Marguerite.
‘We are always looking for new members and new additions in terms of produce, so anyone interested should feel free to call in some Friday or Saturday morning and talk to one of our members. If nothing else it’s a great social occasion and you get to meet so many people.’
See ‘Bandon Country Market’ on Facebook for more information or contact Marguerite McQuaid on 087-9009494.