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NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 – Learning and Legacy Month – November

Most local producers follow in the footsteps of their family legacy with farms and skills being passed from generation to generation.

Elaine from ‘Ken’s Fresh Jersey Milk’ talks about the Hanna family farm….

“The Hanna family has been involved in farming for approximately 100 years. We do remember a few cows being milked by hand and it being churned to produce butter and buttermilk which was sold to friends and neighbours.

A few years ago, an interest in Jersey cows developed and so the herd grew. Realising the high quality of milk that is produced, we were encouraged to take steps towards selling it fresh from the farm.

Procedures had to be put in place with monthly testing’s taken, to ensure that safety of the milk for direct sale was achieved and therefore passed by Food Standard Agency.

We have had good family support especially from our Grandson Daniel who comes across to the farm each day to feed his little calves, move the fencer for Papa and other daily activities.

We have been enjoying meeting new customers at Comber Market each month and some now come direct to the farm for their milk.”

Producer of the Month – Ann Fitzsimmons, The Uncommon Garden Company

Ann Fitzsimmons

Ann Fitzsimmons

Ann Fitzsimmons from The Uncommon Garden Company is the Comber Farmers’ Market Producer of the Month of October.

Ann tells us about The Uncommon Garden Company roots and her passion for plants.

When did you start your business?

 I started the business in 2007, after finishing an HND in Horticulture at Greenmount College.

This was a total career change, having been a medical rep for 20 years, I had become disillusioned with big business and wanted something more creative.


What drove you to become a local producer?

A love of gardens and a fascination for plants drove me to become a horticulturist specialising in unusual and interesting herbaceous perennials.


Tell us a little about your working day?

In summer my day usually starts with watering! Early in the year I will be sowing seeds, later in the year propagation is more cuttings.  Always there are plants to pot up, feed and weed.  We are in the middle of the countryside, in a beautiful part of Co Down so nothing is much hardship.  In the evenings, especially coming near plant shows or markets I have labels to make, explaining a little about the plants and how best to grow.  My customers always like as much information as possible.

As autumn approaches my mind turns to planting bulbs in what I call my lasagne pots, layers of bulbs giving either a succession of lovely flowers over some months or giving a bouquet effect for a shorter length of time.  These pretty pots make lovely Christmas presents.  Even in the depth of winter I am pouring over the seed catalogues to find interesting and new plants to grow.


What is your personal favourite product that you grow?

My favourite product varies with the season.  Currently I am in love with the feathery ornamental grasses and a particular Persicaria called JS Calient, which sports intense pinkish red flowers over red tinged bright green foliage. Just scrumptious!

Producer of the Month – ‘Krazi Baker’ Mark Douglas

‘Krazi Baker’ Mark Douglas

‘Krazi Baker’ Mark Douglas

‘Krazi Baker’ Mark Douglas

September is ‘Bread & Baking’ Month in the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 so Comber Farmers’ Market are celebrating by featuring the Krazi Baker as our producer of the month.

Owner Mark Douglas tells us a bit about his business.

When did you start your business?

 I started 3 years ago but I am only full time 18 months.

What drove you to become a local producer?

My driving force to do what I am doing came from a simple thought of wanting to bake on site.

This was fuelled by seeing the skill within the home baking trade being diminished by the onset of the premix where no skill was needed to bake a range of pastries and cakes and now even into bread.  I felt strongly that I had a skill that was being devalued along with the traditional methods that had been passed down through generations.

Tell us a little about your working day?

My typical working day to go to Comber market will actually start the day before.

I have to load the van with gas, flour and make sure I have all my equipment onboard.

On a market day I will be up from 5am doing last minute stocking, filling iceboxes and hot water for the sink. Picking George up a 6am we arrive in Comber around 6.30am, set the marquee up taking about 30 mins then light the hotplate which is ready for baking around 7.15.

The first customers arrive for 9am then bake right through to 12.30pm.  The market ends at 1pm then pack up time leaving Comber at 2.30pm home for after 3.00pm.

Unload the van and time to wash up which takes around an hour.

What is your personal favourite product that you make?

My favourite product would be potato bread I love it toasted or cold but especially love it with scrambled eggs.  It always reminds me of home when mum baked 3 days a week for a family of 8.  The smell of potato bread and soda bread just has an attachment to home for me and for so many people in N.Ireland and tells us why they are a massive part of our food heritage.

Mark adds:

This has been a massive physical and mental challenge to get this far even as a one man show.  To start out with a simple idea then the next biggest challenge was where do I do this baking on site?

Being refused entry to markets and shows in the beginning I have persevered and have since won 4 Great Taste Awards and best Stand in the FoodNI pavilion at this year’s Balmoral Show.

I have also started a small baking school at home taking up to 7 people teaching the skill of Artisan hotplate baking and much more.

Producer of the Month for August 2016 Jennifer Busby from Farmhouse Treats

Farmhouse Treats

Farmhouse Treats

When did you start your business?
Mum has been baking buns and cakes for friends and family for years, and when I became a mum myself, I too took on the baking bug and about three years ago we decided to start the business.
What drove you to become a local producer?
We have always been doing our bit of home baking, but we were becoming increasingly frustrated with the quality of so called ‘home baking’ on sale in most shops. Due to mass production a lot of the bakery products had become bland and full of artificial flavours and preservatives. We felt that good home baking was going to become a thing of the past if these large commercial bakeries took over, so we decided we wanted to sell our little bit of traditional home baking, just like granny used to make!
Tell us a little about your working day?
We are a mother and daughter team and most days are spent in the bakery. We have a small home bakery based on our farm just outside Moneyreagh which is open Friday and Saturday morning from 9am – 12noon every week. We spend the week re stocking with traybakes and biscuits as well as keeping the freezer stocked with our wide range of desserts.
We also supply Woodlawn garden centre with our delicious desserts which are delivered fresh throughout the week.  We have weekly orders as well for celebration cakes and cupcakes. We are currently expanding the outside catering side of our business, and we can provide sweet and savoury food for any occasion.
What is your personal favourite product that you make?
We were delighted to have received a Great Taste Award last year for our butter shortbread which we love, however Almond slices would be my personal favourite and mum loves a slice of apple tart.

At Farm House Treats we strive to keep our products as fresh as possible. We want our products to not only look good, but to taste great too.  Everything is prepared in small batches and we are using traditional recipes passed from generation to generation.

We are delighted with the business we do on a monthly basis at Comber Market and we now have a regular customer base who return each month to stock up on our treats. The market is a credit to its organisers and we look forward to trading here for many years to come!

Farmhouse Treats can be found at Comber Farmers’ Market the first Thursday of every month.

Comber Farmers’ Market Celebrates 2nd Birthday

Comber Regeneration Community Partnership, the organisation that runs the successful artisan food and plant  market in Comber, is celebrating the 2nd birthday of Comber Farmers’ Market on Thursday 7 July, St Mary’s Parish Church, the Square, Comber, from 9.00am – 1.30pm. 

In addition to our regular food and plant stalls,  we welcome the Hanna family who have a milking herd of Jersey cows on their farm on the Hillsborough Road outside Carryduff. They will be selling their certified and registered creamy, raw milk which is packed full of goodness and health benefits. 

There will also be free activities for children, a free hamper draw, and birthday cake for some lucky customers (while stocks last). So come along and celebrate this significant milestone in the life cycle of our popular market which is helping to regenerate Comber and support our local food producers who are selling their top quality products at fair market prices.


Comber Food Tour Takes Off

Newtownards entrepreneur, Mike Thompson, with his Young Buck Blue Cheeses, who will be giving a cheese demonstration during the upcoming Comber Food Tour on Thursday 5 May 2016

Newtownards entrepreneur, Mike Thompson, with his Young Buck Blue Cheeses, who will be giving a cheese demonstration during the upcoming Comber Food Tour on Thursday 5 May 2016

Comber Farmers’ Market has teamed up with NI Food Tours to bring people to Comber to sample and taste a variety of different foods which are available in and around the town on Thursday 5 May 2016. The coach tour will leave Ards Visitor Information Centre, 31 Regent Street, Newtownards at 10.00am, travel to Comber to visit Comber Farmer’s Market followed by morning tea or coffee, home baked scones and cakes in St Mary’s Church Hall. After a brief walk across the Square to Indie Fude Deli, guests will be treated to a cheese demonstration by Michael Thompson who makes his Young Buck hand crafted blue cheeses in Newtownards. The group will then be picked up by the coach again and taken to The Old Schoolhouse Inn on the Ballydrain Road where award winning chef Will Brown will be cooking them a gourmet two course lunch before returning to Newtownards for 3.00pm.

Comber Food Tour Programme

  • 10.00am      Coach pick up from Ards Visitor Information Centre
  • 10.20am       Tour of Comber Farmers’ Market
  • 11.00am       Tea and home baked scones and cake
  • 12.00pm       Young Buck Cheese Demonstration
  • 1.00pm        Lunch in The Old Schoolhouse Inn
  • 3.00pm       Arrive back at Ards Visitor Information Centre

The tour costs £30 per person and includes the coach, morning tea or coffee and cake, food samples, lunch and the services of an experienced tour guide. Book your tickets through Ards Visitor Information Centre by dropping in to 31 Regent Street, Newtownards, or call them on 9182 6846 and use your debit or credit card or book online by visiting https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ardsandnorthdown

Good Granola Company Wins Grampian Food Award

The Award for the Best New Retail Product for businesses with up to 25 employees Debbie Riley, Good Granola Company & Sarah Mackie

The Award for the Best New Retail Product for businesses with up to 25 employees Debbie Riley, Good Granola Company & Sarah Mackie

The Good Granola Company that attends Comber Farmers’ Market every month has won the Best New Retail Product for businesses with up to 25 employees at the recent  Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards. Organised by Grampian Food Forum, the awards celebrate excellence and innovation in food and drink in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray. This is the second time that this entrepreneurial business has been recognised as it was shortlisted in the ‘My Country Business Awards 2015’ which is organised by Country Homes and Interiors.

Owner Debbie Riley, originally from Northern Ireland but now living in Aberdeen, Scotland, started up her business a couple of years ago said, “I was in a complete fluster when my name was called out! I wasn’t expecting to win as there was tough competition in my category. I haven’t stopped grinning since I won the award and it is lovely to get recognition for all the hard work and effort in preparing and baking my granolas. It has given me a lot of confidence to know that I am on the right track to develop my business.”

Although Debbie is unable to attend Comber Farmers’ Market herself, her parents, James and Jenny Lee, set up her stall on the first Thursday of the month and her granolas have become very popular at the market. Every month, Debbie packs up her car and travels by ferry to visit her parents and deliver her award winning products. Her range includes:

Banana, Cashew and Coconut Granola; Fig, Date and Vanilla Granola ; Pineapple, Papaya and Coconut Granola; and Chocolate and Mixed Nut Granola. For further information visit http://www.thegoodgranolacompany.co.uk/

Market Bus to Comber

Billy McMaster, Translink Area Scheduler; Alayne Cree from Bangor;  Alderman Deborah Girvan from Comber Farmers' Market; and Joan Caldwell and Alayne Cree from Bangor

Billy McMaster, Translink Area Scheduler; Alayne Cree from Bangor; Alderman Deborah Girvan from Comber Farmers’ Market; and Joan Caldwell and Alayne Cree from Bangor

Comber Farmers’ Market is encouraging Bangor and Newtownards residents to take the bus to Comber Farmers’  Market  which is held on  the first Thursday of the month in St Mary’s Parish Church car park, the Square, Comber from 9.00am – 1.30pm. 

Alderman Deborah Girvan who helps to run the artisan food market on behalf of Comber Regeneration Community Partnership explained, “On market day, the car parks in Comber fill up very quickly and people often complain that they can’t get parked.  I would like to encourage our local market goers, especially retired folk who can use their Smartpass, to leave their car behind and take the bus. 

This is a great day out for people who have time on their hands and love food!  Not only does the market sell locally produced food products which have been grown, made or baked by local people, but customers can also have a lovely cup of tea or coffee and a home baked scone or piece of cake which have been made by the ladies of the church catering committee.  We have excellent cafes and restaurants dotted about the town where people can stop off for lunch before catching the bus back to Newtownards and Bangor and we look forward to welcoming our existing and new customers to the next market  on Thursday 7 April 2016

Translink service Delivery Manager David Graham said,  “Travelling by bus is a relaxing way to enjoy your day out. We are pleased to team up with Comber Farmer’s Market to encourage more people to use Ulsterbus services to reach the town, pick up some shopping, catch-up with friends and enjoy the lively market atmosphere. If you’ve a 60 Plus or Senior Smartpass you can also enjoy the added convenience of free travel. Our customers can also enjoy the benefits of an Ulsterbus Smartlink card with savings of around 30% compared to cash fares,” said David.

An Ulsterbus Service will depart Bangor Bus & Rail Centre at 10am for Newtownards where customers can transfer onto the 10.30am service to Comber (arriving at 10.45am). A return service from Comber to Ards departs at 1.05pm with a connection onward to Bangor at 1.30pm.

Eat Me! Eat Me!

Come and eat lots of lovely food at Comber Farmers’ Market at Curiously Comber event on Thursday 24 March. The market will open at the usual time of 9.00am but opening hours will be extended until 4.00pm. There will be 24 stalls selling artisan food including cheese, jams,chutneys, oils, olives, breads, bacon, beef, cakes, eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, granola, pies, tarts, quiches, and chocolates. In addition there will be bedding plants and unusual garden shrubs and spring bulbs to buy. Satisfy your curiosity and look for the hidden gems at Comber Market that you won’t find anywhere else!

Tracey Jeffery from Eva Paris Macarons and Alice get ready for Curiously Comber event in Comber on 24 March

Tracey Jeffery from Eva Paris Macarons and Alice get ready for Curiously Comber event in Comber on 24 March

Curiously Comber

A brilliant family day is taking place around the Square in Comber on Thursday 24 March called Curiously Comber from 11.00am – 4.00pm. Comber Farmers’ Market is delighted to be taking part in this ‘Alice in Comberland’ themed event and all our regular traders will be setting up their stalls to sell their delicious food products in time for the Easter holidays.  There are lots of activities for all the family to enjoy including:

  • Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
  • Acrobatic performances
  • Art workshops
  • Petting Zoo
  • Live music
  • Alice in Wonderland characters
  • Art workshops
  • Live music
  • A ‘Wonderland’ trail of Comber 

Don’t miss this free fun day!



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