Throngs of happy shoppers, Christmas music, stallholders selling out, local produce galore – where am I? Deddington Farmers’ Market which has just won Best Farmers’ Market in Oxfordshire, came third in the UK, and is run purely by volunteers.

It’s not surprising it’s so popular considering what’s on offer, from fresh juice to greek pies, Italian panforte, organic fruit and veg, gluten free bread, free range bacon, local lamb, cheese galore, patisseries to rival any French chefs, and savoury Swedish sandwich cakes.

“We get thousands of people here in just a few hours,” Tei Williams tells me proudly as she leads me through the busy aisles, where the producers often sell out well before 12.30pm when it closes. “People come from all around Oxfordshire and much further afield,” Tei tells me.

“I call my sandwich cakes the Liberace of Swedish food,” says raya horner of smörgås tÅrta

Now in its 15th year, Deddington Farmer’s Market is not only an inspiring success story but a glimpse of the way food is going, in terms of its artisan traits, seasonality, traceability and sourcing, judging by its huge following.

Which is why the organisers are so stringent on who they allow to join, vetting all the produce and ensuring it’s locally sourced.

“If you want people to come here for the best market you have to make sure it’s the best shopping experience you can possibly give them.” Tei shrugs.

“But it’s also a way of supporting emerging artisan food producers until they are properly established.”

All the profits go back into the market, with a large donation being made to local charities and the community at the end of every year.

But let’s meet just some of the 40 artisans selling their produce to such an appreciative audience.

At one bread stall, run by Knife & Fork Bakery, a lady from Winslow is queueing up to make sure she nabs some of the acclaimed loaves at the gluten free pitch.

Run by the lovely Tanya Young, she says gleefully that she can scarcely keep up with demand, and has sold out by 10am.

“I started Knife & Fork Bakery because I am coeliac and wanted to develop recipes as good as any non gluten-free without using any processed ingredients.”

Four years later her recipes polished, she now supplies several acclaimed restaurants and establishments from Gidleigh park in Devon to The Yurt more locally at Nicholsons Garden Centre.

And while she uses Parcel Force to send her produce overnight around the country (it works, I’ve used it), you can buy her produce for yourself every month in Deddington, hence the queues.

Tanya makes 180 loaves a week in five different varieties from sourdough to buckwheat and teff to quinoa and millet, from her home on Castle Farm in Deddington.

Mariella Bliss, a well known Italian chef who runs cookery classes and demonstrations around the county, and further afield, is also on hand with her amazing selection of Italian delicacies from panforte to terrine, cantucci and her home made nocciolina (a hazelnut and honey spread from Piedmont).

“I have been here for seven years now and I love the atmosphere,” she tells me. Based in Tackley, Mariella says: “I’ve run stalls at so many farmers market Oxford, but in Deddington, even when it rains or snows the customers still come because they are as committed as we are, which is so amazing.”

“I was a market virgin, but I love it here, it’s like a day out. I really love it. The people are welcoming and funny and interested in food as I am. There’s nowhere like it.”

Fenemere Farm breeds sheep and chickens on their 600 acre arable fam, most of which is imported around the country and Europe, so Deddington offers them the chance to sell it locally. Their lamb is 100% grass fed so in great demand.

“We are only a mile up the road,” Ben and Tom Fenemere tell me “and these are the people we most want to be eating our produce. You can’t get much more local than us so we love this market.”

Ben and Tom Fenemere

Carl and Anna from Middle Barton grow all their produce on their allotment. All proceeds then go to an orphanage they have supported in Thailand for the past 18 years and they have raised thousands of pounds for the two Thai orphans they have adopted.

Carl and Anna

The greek cuisine at Ellie’s Greek Kitchen, based in Woodstock, and run by the infamous Ellissavet Stagoni, literally flies of her stall, as I can vouch for when I returned for some spanakopita to find it had all gone. Mark, who helps run her stall says: “We can’t produce on a grand scale so for a micro business we do very well here and always sell out.”

Paul Barlow-Heal of Cotswold Baking in Swerford has been selling at the market for eight years now having worked at the Michelin starred The Waterside Inn in Bray and The Taplow House Hotel. The renowned pastry chef started the company because he “couldn’t find decent hand-crafted cakes and patisseries anywhere else and wanted to run my own business.”

His croquembouche on display at his stall attested to his immense skill and passion and is testament to the level of skill on display here in Deddington.

“I come to Deddington because it has a really good vibe,” Paul continues, “and it is always so well supported. People still turn up when there is a foot of snow.

“There is such a great variety of stalls here and some fantastic produce. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Based in Charlbury, The Curiosities Company is run by Simon and Claire Warrick and serves plastic free bacon, sourced from local free range pork, cured in local herbs, and presented in plastic free packaging, they firmly believe in product traceability.

The Curiosities Company sell their produce in London and other national markets, and this is their first time at Deddington.

So how is their experience: “It’s been superb so far,” they say happily, “it’s very well run.”

“even when it rains or snows the customers still come because they are as committed as we are, which is so amazing,” Mariella Bliss

Sweden’s Raya Horner laughs when I ask how long she’s been coming to Deddington Farmers Market: “A Long time,” she says, “ but this was my husband’s idea. I was cooking 24-7 anyway. I love cooking and I thought about getting my own food van, but you have to find your thing and you can’t just sell what everyone else is already selling.

“And then one day I sent him into the office with one of my savoury Swedish sandwich cakes and everyone went wild about it and here we are,” she laughs again.

“Now my sandwich cakes go all over the place and I deliver them,” Raya, who lives in Brackley says.

“I call my sandwich cakes the Liberace of Swedish food because between each layer there is a different filling whether they are seafood based, chicken, vegetarian or even vegan, and then you fill in the payers with cream cheese and then dress it to make it as elaborate as possible.

A Swedish sandwich cake

“I was a market virgin, but I love it here, it’s like a day out. I really love it. The people are welcoming and funny and interested in food as I am. There’s nowhere like it.”

Berry’s Orchard, based in Deddington, is run by Janet and David Macey. Janet was made redundant a few years ago, and while considering how to occupy herself, decided to utilise what she had at home and began cultivating and utilising its produce for the market. Hence you can buy fresh juices, herbs to grow or take home, salts, vinegars, piles, chutneys, jams and even little Christmas trees as well as their seeds so you can grow your own.

“It’s a wonderful way of life and keeps us really busy,” she says.

Deddington Farmer’s Market is held on the fourth Saturday of the month.

deddingtonfarmersmarket.co.uk

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