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Chloe’s bid to save Beccles local market with online platform

PUBLISHED: 14:49 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 March 2017

Chloe Donovan of Beccles Farmers' Market.

Chloe Donovan of Beccles Farmers' Market.

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A 22-year-old is hoping to create a “vital lifeline” for East Anglian food and drink producers and save a local farmers’ market.

Beccles Farmers' Market. Beccles Farmers' Market.

Beccles Farmers’ Market, launched by Chloe Donovan’s grandparents 17 years ago, was once a bustling business but is now struggling.

Trade has slowed considerably at the family-run market, with less than half the number of regulars it once had.

Now Chloe is launching a local Food Assembly, an online platform enabling shoppers to source local produce via the internet. Beccles Farmers’ Market, started by dairy farmers Tony and Margaret Hall, was one of three official farmers markets in the area, but is the last to remain open.

“Last year is the worst year we have ever had. If something doesn’t change, we might have to shut down altogether,” warned Chloe.

Beccles Farmers' Market. Beccles Farmers' Market.

She decided to bring the market into the 21st century by setting up the Beccles Food Assembly. It enables shoppers to buy their locally-sourced products online, via a central portal, but still meet the producers at the weekly local pickup point.

“The customer base here is changing – many of the older inhabitants are too frail or have passed away – and the younger generation want to buy online. Traditional markets are not so appealing to them,” she said.

Beccles Food Assembly will open online for business on Saturday, March 25, with its first farmers’ market collection on April 1.

“This is a big push to help our producers sell. If we can turn things around, we hope we can save our market too.”

The project has been challenging for Chloe, who admits many of the producers are not at all tech-savvy.

“Many of our producers do not have a computer or know how to go online, some don’t have a bank account and one of our producers doesn’t even have photo ID – when I asked him, he present me with his gun licence!”

Chloe hopes the Beccles Food Assembly, part of a network which began in France three years ago and came to the UK, will act as an attractive alternative for local people who have limited time to shop at a farmers’ market, but still want to buy direct from local producers. “Producers are at their wits’ end. We are hoping The Food Assembly will offer them the vital lifeline for them to save their businesses,” she said.

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