Food Assemblies; have you come across them yet? Sweeping in from Europe, the new pig in town is the Local Food Assembly but it’s not just pork they are selling! Small and not so small local producers are being brought together at venues up and down the country through what is effectively an online Farmers Market.
The latest one to go online is being hosted by Gillian Mackay, a rare breed pig farmer from Strathblane, Gillian & her partner David have been supplying classy West End restaurants with their delicious pork and lamb for nearly ten years only recently discovered the Food Assembly – they love the model so much that they’ve just launched one near their farm in Milngavie.

“We were both rather sceptical when we were first invited to join the Stirling Food Assembly last summer. A farmer’s market where you only brought produce already sold, but no additional stock to sell on the day….surely they were missing lots of sales opportunities?”

That though is one of the unique and key parts to the Food Assembly’s success. It’s like an online farmer’s market which accepts orders and payments day and night for 5 days a week, then closes to allow it’s producers times to bake, harvest, butcher their produce and prepare their orders for the Assembly. The Assemblies normally run for a couple of hours and it’s an opportunity for customers to meet the producers and learn all about how they make their produce, what makes it special and put a face to the person making it. It’s all about buying local, supporting the local economy, being part of the community, eating well and minimising wastage through the producers only bringing prepaid orders!
Started in France in 2011 there are now over 700 Assemblies in Europe and 90 in the UK since it rolled out here in 2014 with many more being created. It’s such a fair way to do business with local producers receiving almost 84% of the money from their sales, compared to just 20% if they were supplying a supermarket and, as the producers and Assembly host are all local, over 90% stays in the local economy. Producers love the flexibility it gives them they can supply as many Assemblies as they can manage, they can opt out of them whenever they like and they can set a minimum sales amount which makes it worth their while attending, there’s no obligation to attend if they do not reach it. “It has completely changed our business”, says Gillian “it’s brought us full circle to where we really wanted to be when we started our farm 10 years ago, selling our local produce to local people”.
For customers, it has opened doors to products they simply cannot find on supermarket shelves and would have had problems sourcing them without the Assemblies. It has all the qualities of a regular farmer’s market but the added convenience of being online. Through talking to customers it’s clear they care more and more about where their food comes from, how it’s been reared and how far it’s travelled to reach them. They’re also willing to pay that little bit more as they understand that rearing animals in a high welfare way is more expensive than factory farmed meat. We’ve also found that people are planning ahead what they’re going to cook, inspired by the amazing produce Scotland’s larder has to offer and it’s getting people back to scratch cooking and away from ready meals with all their additives and nasties!

The new Milngavie Food Assembly

“Our new Milngavie Food Assembly has brought over 20 local producers together offering over 250 products including fresh bread, local milk and dairy products, venison, free range chicken, lamb, rare breed pork, artisan cheeses, award winning preserves, superfood chocolates, amazing vegan cakes, fresh seafood and seafood charcuterie, home baking and soups, locally grown fruit and vegetables, artisan beers, ethical handmade cleaning products, bespoke silver jewellery and much more!” The online market runs each week from 5pm Friday until 2am Thursday and the weekly Assembly is at The Fraser Centre in Milngavie from 4-6pm every Friday where people are welcome to just drop in and find out for themselves what it’s all about.

Join a Food Assembly near you

Anyone wishing to join the Food Assembly can do so here with just their name, email address and a password. You can currently find a number of Assemblies in the Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen areas with others opening soon in Bathgate, Inverness, Oban, Paisley and Eyemouth.
Food Assemblies, the new farmer’s market? We think so!

Click here to find all the producers at the Milngavie Food Assembly.