Perth Farmers’ Market : The Fury & The Passion That Started It All : Part 4

There I was, phone in hand when suddenly I realised there may be a bit of a problem. 

You see, as the guy leading the charge in recruiting for Perth Farmers’ Market and persuading them into changing their thinking, I had a bit of a stumbling block. I only knew about 5 farmers! I was a young interloper from the toun remember; add to this that my initial calls had only really thrown up one other person who got my big picture and was willing to jump on it, and you can see my predicament! I had to convince people that there was a huge potential and that we could achieve it!  Enter John McNeil. John was a member of the Ag Forum and came from NFUS – and he was also the man with the contact book.

Barry Lambert and His Ostriches Were An Unexpected Bonus

Barry Lambert and His Ostriches Were An Unexpected Bonus!

He gave me a list of potential names that he knew from his work in the community; he had a good idea of what they grew or reared and if they were worth approaching.  In amongst that list was one of the most important names I was ever to receive; a man who became one of the true characters of Perth Farmers’ Market – one Barry Lambert. Barry it turned out reared…. Well, Barry reared Ostrich. In Perthshire.  He had been sick and tired of the loss he had made rearing beef cattle at the time and so had diversified into ostrich. Lateral thinking or what? I could scarcely believe it. What a story, what a guy, what a piece of PR gold dust for the launch!


I then heard about another bloke who watched lorry loads of cereal leave the family farm and each time knew they had just waved goodbye to another load of grain and a whole lot of money. Times were tough remember folks. He had persuaded his partners at their Craigend farm to go into wild boar. You will all know and love this man – one Andrew Johnson. And he came with another great story and more PR leverage.

Then there was the organic farmer.  “Isn’t organic farming just weed smoking hippies who chant to the earth and the stars and rely on Mother Nature to fill our bountiful earth?” I asked Anne, face screwed up.  Then I met him.  Not this one, was my answer. Ian Millar was a commercial farmer who turned organic because he saw the supermarkets swallowing up our industry and wanted a niche status that would give his farm longevity.  He set up his own butchery and mail order business and was running an honesty box style shop from his base in Abernethy.

Manna from heaven, it was all coming together.

So, here we had four forward thinking farming families who were either doing it or were trying to do it already for themselves. And I had the perfect vehicle to bring it all together. Easy.

Here’s a paraphrased version of phone calls to the aforementioned.

Is this Barry Lambert?


John McNeil gave me your number and said I should talk to you about my idea to set up a farmers market in Perth!

Oh yes? (In his broad Yorkshire accent) Well, we’ve had them down south for years it’s about bloody time there was something up here, good idea, count me in.  Great!

Well done.

An easy win, we were off and running. This was going to be dawdle.

Hilton Wild Boar At Perth Farmers' Market

And This Little Wild Boar Went To Market…

Can I speak to Andrew Johnstone please


John McNeil gave me your number and said I should talk to you about my idea to set up a farmers market in Perth!

Mmmmmm , how’s this going to work? Who’s butchering? How much is it? Who’s organising it? What will stalls look like? What’s the weather going to be like that day?

Now… I did say I was paraphrasing and AJ knows I love him so he won’t mind me taking the mick a wee bit. Those who know him well will get this immediately! Let’s just say Andrew Johnstone was not so easily convinced. No problem, thought I, he’ll come round!


Can I speak to Ian Millar organic farmer please?


Same opener as before; but this time it included a newly revised, persuasive bunch of answers to any unasked questions. This was courtesy of AJ who had forced me to think a bit harder!

Hmmmmmm. a market ye say? Hmmmmmmm, in the toune centre ye say? Hmmmmmmmm dae ye think that’ll work?

Yes I do because………. (Cue me with a reel of enthusiasm, belief and persuasion).

Hmmmmmmm aye well, I’ve aye said we need tae dae somethin, hmmmmmmmm, aye well, keep me posted, but we should probably try tae be involved, I’m aye telling ither folk we need tae dae somethin different so  suppose I better say aye eh? Keep me posted.

Ok, maybe not a dawdle, but they weren’t actually saying no, this was ok.

Then the councillor told me about his son and daughter in law who were thinking about the possibility of a farm shop as an outlet for their black faced lamb. Direct competition was always a good thing! Here we go… Dave Murray.

Ring Ring…. Hello! came the bark down the phone. By now I was mentally picturing people on how they answered the phone and it seemed like this guy really didn’t want to talk to me.

Hi. I’m Jim Fairlie, your Dad said I should phone you about my idea to set up a farmers mar……

Aye hold on,  I think it’s my wife you want to speak to!

And he promptly handed the phone to his lovely wife, Sally Murray. I didn’t even get to give him my persuasive, enthusiastic, infectious chat that would have him diving in Sally got it right away, but I was slightly concerned that the farmer part of this arrangement didn’t want to talk to me at all. I learned later of course, that Sally was the decision maker in this part of the business and they were both equally important in making this work. 

This was going to be harder than I thought. And these were the forward thinking ones.

Andrew Johnstone Perth Farmers' Market

Andrew’s made some high faluting pals since we started! But he still has time for me!

There’s a reason for me mentioning these particular people. Either they themselves, or they and their families became the bedrock of the success of Perth Farmers’ Market. Each one of them helped me personally and once in, committed themselves to ensuring this idea was going to work. But more importantly for me, each and every one of them became lifelong friends.  (AJ’s also been my next door neighbour at the Market for the past 14 years. Many a laugh has been had.)


I spent a huge amount of time on the phone with varying degrees of success and a huge amount of failures. I was promised returned calls; I could hear the person who had answered the phone tell my intended target it was me. And then I could hear them say, loud enough for me to hear, “tell him I’m no’ here!” But we managed to scrape enough people and products together to announce publicly that we would be holding the first modern farmers market in Scotland on April 3rd 1999.

Boom!  The media loved it, they were all over it. Newspaper, television, radio… they were lapping it up!

Check into the final instalment of The Passion and The Fury in the next blog…. can you believe I thought this was going to be one entry?