I still can’t believe I did this, but when Steve Reid, owner of Friars Farm, Northampton’s most well-known Artisan producer of jams, chutneys and preserves asked me if I wanted to look after his stall for him at the Love Northampton Food Fair; I thought he was mad!
But it made me think: I love supporting the local food & drink producer scene by attending lots of food fairs and festivals, as well as buying local, so it intrigued me as to what it would be like on the other side of things.
So I told him I would do it!
Friars Farm is considered to be Northampton’s best producer and is very well-known in the county and Steve is well-known for being a local food hero, winning numerous food awards as well as being nominated for both the Carlsberg Food & Drink and Circus Independent Food & Drink awards this year.
So it’s safe to say there was a bit of pressure on my shoulders to make sure I did the job right. Thank god I had Josh with me to help set up, sell and close down.
I learned a lot of things during the day and learnt a whole new side to the food producer scene that I wouldn’t have experienced if it weren’t for Steve presenting me with this rare opportunity. So much so, it inspired me to share my thoughts…
It’s a long day
If you have never run a food stall or attended a festival of any description, be prepared to give up a lot of your time and for a long day. We arrived at the Guildhall car park for 9am, to ensure everything was set up ready for people to come in at 10:30am.
We found ourselves on our feet a lot (we had chairs, but found we only sat down during quiet periods to ensure we looked presentable!) and even when we were not behind the stall, we found ourselves going round to the other food stalls to have a browse.
Luckily, you had the support from the Love Northampton staff available to help set up and close down, but we had a lot of products and equipment to take with us in the car.
Once we got home, we absolutely crashed – I imagine it takes a few times to get used to it, but we were pretty much pooped for the rest of the afternoon!
You have to constantly keep alert
You imagine it’s pretty easy to just stand there and do nothing. Oh no.
You have to be SO alert and make sure you’re keeping an eye out on all the action; after all you are there to sell and be the face of the product you are selling and advertising.
I always wanted to engage with people by asking them questions about whether they knew who Friars Farm was, what kind of tastes tickle their fancy and introduced them to the products such as the Chili Jam, the Beetroot and Orange Chutney and Northampton Breakfast Marmalade.
Luckily, we had tasters out for all to try before they decided to buy – but we did find most of the time we had to keep alert in order to properly execute the products and business.
The support from other producers
One thing that really shone through during the day was the amount of support each and every producer had for each other; even if one was doing something similar to someone else.
We luckily had two great neighbours on our side who would always see if we were okay and would answer any questions if we had any; it was just nice to know that we had people by our side incase we struggled (which luckily we didn’t)
Paul and Judy from Dutch Delights always checked up on us and kept us company; especially nice since we are all from Towcester! And lots of other food stalls came up to say hello to us and to wish us luck.
Having that massive moral support from everyone around the room was really encouraging for us newbies, especially that it was our first time doing anything like this!
You meet lots of people
The best thing about running a food stall? You get to meet lots of people!
It was a great opportunity to meet more of the locals in Northampton, speak to them, find out if they knew much about Friars Farm (most did) and I also found the opportunity to talk about what I do as well, when it slipped into conversation that I was only running the stall on behalf of Steve.
It was lovely that lots of people were intrigued by what I do as a blogger, which I felt was a nice conversation maker. I found it bizzare but lovely that people actually came to the stand, just because they knew I would be there!
Thank you to everyone who came to say hello to me and brought products!
Your passion for the product shines through
The fact that Josh and I have Friars Farms products at home and know what they do, was a big bonus when it came to actually promoting them.
Anytime we attend a food festival or fair, we are guaranteed to always buy something from Friars Farm and will always continue to support them, whether it’s buying just one jar, or taking advantage of their 4 jars for £10 offer.
So with that in mind, we luckily both knew quite a lot when it came down to answering any questions about the products and about Friars Farm themselves.
We also put it down to personal experiences of what we thought the products tasted like and what food we personally went well with certain jams, chutneys etc.
For example, we recommended to people that the Apple & Fig Chutney went really well with cheeses like Northamptonshire Blue and Stilton Cheese as the sharpness of the cheese with the sweetness of the chutney blended well together.
We found ourselves just having so much fun actually telling people how great Friars Farm products were and I think that was something people really like to see when it comes to these types of events.
Overall, it was crazy, tiring, mentally draining but so insightful, memorable and enjoyable!
Thank you Steve, for putting SO MUCH trust into our ability to ensure we did the job right for you – from the feedback we have received, it sounds like we did a pretty good job.
Thank you to all the other stallholders for welcoming us and helping us if we needed. Thank you to Helen at Love Northampton for easing us into the swing of the event too and thanks to all the lovely people who came to say hello.
And I must say a BIG thank you to Josh. I honestly don’t know what I would had done without him being there; especially that he was actually just coming out from suffering from a cold!
I’d definitely consider helping at another Food Fair in the future (but not for a while, as I’m still aching from this one!)