Celebrating Local Producers with Real Food Ilkley

Real Food Ilkley is a speciality fine food and local produce market held on the first Sunday of each month (except January) on the Grove in Ilkley. The market acts as a non profit making organisation, set up and run by three volunteers and features a wide range of local and specialist produce. Two stalls each month are also given for free to community groups to help them raise awareness and funds for their initiatives. We spoke to market organiser Lucy Allen to find out more. 


Can you tell us about some of the produce available at the market?
The market has grown over the last three years and now features over 30 stalls who showcase their produce. One of the market’s aims was to connect producers with the community and we love to see visitors talking to the people who have grown, made, cooked and baked the items in front of them. Our stalls can range from bread and baked goods, gluten free goodies, cheese, teas, coffee, herbs, chocolates and brownies to honey, soups, pickles and condiments, sweets, lasagne, pretzels, organic fruit, veg and meats.

How did you come to be running a local produce market?
All three directors (Paula Connor, Bernie Baldwin and Lucy Allen) felt that Ilkley would benefit from a local and speciality food market which was not only a place where people could sell their produce but also somewhere the community could come together and learn more about the food they eat and how it is produced. We conducted feasibility studies and research from retailers, residents and visitors to the town and the support was overwhelming. It was a long journey to find a location, get permission, brand the market and raise funds to buy equipment but we got there. The work to raise more funds and gather more volunteers is still ongoing as the market grows and continues, but we’re proud to see how popular Real Food Ilkley has become. 

What are your backgrounds and what do you all bring to the (ahem) table?
My background is in PR, marketing and events and I’ve worked with many restaurants, food festivals, chefs, retailers and tourism organisations including Welcome to Yorkshire and Cumbia Tourism. Bernie brings valuable experience for the community, volunteering and funding side of the market, having worked in social care and community work for many years. Paula’s background is in project management for international companies, Paula also brings valuable experience as a stall holder having run her own very successful local produce business until a few years ago.

How important is it for people to support local producers and what do you do to encourage people to do that?
One of the aims for Real Food Ilkley was to ‘promote local economic growth’ and to ensure that a presence of a regular food market in Ilkley would bring new opportunities for the local economy and existing retailers. We support a ‘start up’ each year, offering them support in business set up, fees and a place at the market. We’ve since seen these businesses flourish and in turn support individuals and businesses around them. A number of retailers and venues in the town have discovered new suppliers through Real Food Ilkley and the presence of a market provides a destination for customers and encourages people to shop in the areas in which they are based. We also have a changing range of guest stalls at the market. This compliments our range of regular stall holders perfectly and, as well as knowing they can pick up their favourite produce from their favourite stalls, ensures visitors always have something new to see. 

Do you think Ilkley is a good place for producers to base themselves? 
Ilkley is a great town with so much going on. People based here have a genuine passion to see the town succeed and in particular are keen to support independent businesses and projects and see them thrive. We have a large number of food retailers with a reputation for high quality produce and, sandwiched between the beautiful River Wharfe and Ilkley Moor, inspiration and natural beauty is never far away. 

Your Next Real Food Ilkley Market 

Sunday 6 Oct 
Sunday 3 Nov 
Sunday 1 Dec 

The monthly market is held on the Grove, Ilkley from 10am – 3pm

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