A network of food producers which kept the supply chain going during lockdown is to welcome back its customers next week to its first market in months.

Food producers who are part of the Bowhouse artisan hub in the East Neuk of Fife were involved in an imaginative supply link during lockdown and were able to bring present their goods to enthusiastic foodies.

The traditional monthly market closed its doors at the beginning of lockdown, but what emerged in its place allowed producers to offer a combination of home delivery and a collection service through Bowhouse Link virtual market.

While keen to reconnect with customers, Bowhouse Link plans to run a blended format with both weekly orders and monthly events.

On Saturday August 8 they will be opening their doors for an open collection day. Organic beef, lamb, venison and pork from Butchery at Bowhouse, wholemeal organic flours from Scotland the Bread, organic vegetables and salads from East Neuk Market Garden, rums, ciders, beers and natural wines from Futtle Organic Brewery, game meats from Woodmill Game, cheeses from the neighbouring St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company, will all be featured. It will also be a chance for people to speak directly to the food producers.

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Rosie Jack, Market Manager, said: "We have been delighted by the support for our Bowhouse Link virtual market, which will continue to provide a pre-order and delivery service. We really feel like a family at Bowhouse, it’s home to a number of producers such as Scotland the Bread, Futtle Organic Brewery, The Butchery at Bowhouse and the East Neuk Market Garden who share resources as well as a hosting space for the market weekends. It gives us great pleasure to be able to welcome a collection day as a chance to experience Bowhouse in person and explore the amazing range of food and drink available from Fife.”

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Sam Parsons, Balcaskie Estate Manager where Bowhouse is based, said that lockdown allowed them to focus specifically on growing the online side of the business.

“As lockdown was very sudden, we had to look at how do we change direction and quickly and how do we commit to how to making Bowhouse a food hub for people to come and collect from regularly,” said Mr Parsons. “Markets are a great way to connect customers to producers, but we wanted to focus on fresh seasonal local produce and that doesn’t gel completely with once a month event.

“We wanted to make it a more frequent event and we are happy to be a collection point and an aggregator for multiple producers. This landed at the right time for us and we could really focus on this.”

During lockdown shoppers saw their habits change due to travel restrictions and availability, which gave Bowhouse a chance to introduce itself to new people.

Mr Parsons added: “I think two things struck me very early on in lockdown. Meal times became social gatherings and cohesion between families. People became much more interested in their food and there seemed to be a lot of social media around it and families coming together. That was long overdue as we have all been guilty of grab what you can. Where the food came from and who produced it suddenly became important to people. I think local food distributors and producers showed resilience and became more important. I think people have remembered that food security - can we produce it, can we get it - now matters to them.”

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A weekly online collection, run through Open Food Network, started in lockdown and took the place of the monthly markets and this Saturday will be the first time people will be able to go back to a market environment.

They will be running the usual weekly collection, with orders able to be placed between Monday and Wednesday, ready for collection in slots between 9am and 11am. It allow producers to be able to plan a little and gives organisers the chance to know how many people are coming while maintaining safe social distancing.

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From 11am to 4pm people will have the chance to explore the market environment once again and depending on how lockdown restrictions are eased, organisers are looking to hold a two day event in September.

Mr Parsons added: “We know there is a demand for it locally and because of movement restrictions we couldn’t supply outwith the area but we have had inquires from people in Glasgow and Edinburgh who are keen to place order for fresh food and take back home. People seem to want to be able to connect with their produce and know where it has come from.

“With the opening up of the tourist season and self-catering we have seen people inquire about ordering from us for their stay at a holiday home. I am delighted they are coming to us rather than stocking up the car with supermarket good before they leave their home town.

Ms Jack said they had been providing 55 to 60 orders a weeks for the past 16 weeks and they are looking forward to seeing how the event goes.

She added: “It will be a very relaxed event with street food being offered and a chance for people to meet the producers again and for some meet them for the first time.

“We have had new customers discover us in lockdown and this will give them a chance to meet the person who has produced their food. One of the businesses involved in the link East Neuk Market Gardens has a little plot near the market and before people lockdown people use to love to have wander and see where their food had been grown and picked and I think some people have missed that.”

Sophie Cumber, Butchery at Bowhouse, joined the team in February having moved from London.

She said: “Opening on the weekend of Lockdown, as you can imagine, a meat chill full of fantastic locally produced organic meat and no market to sell to – without Bowhouse Link, my business would never have survived the first few months. The feedback from customers and repeat sales has really boosted my confidence and assured me that Fife has a real appetite for a business like mine.”