Originally from Tonypandy in the Rhondda Valleys, I left school after my O Levels (yes, I am that old!) and spent 12 years as a Tax Officer at the Inland Revenue in Cardiff.

During this period, I also gained a HNC in Business Administration. After a couple of years travelling in Spain, I returned to Wales and became a Housing Officer. It was during this time that I gained paid experience of organising events. I was the Staff Liaison Officer for the Tenants Social Forum, responsible for organising events and entertainment. I’d always enjoyed organising events, from my wedding, to theatre trips and holidays for large groups of friends. You could say that an events organiser would be my dream job!

Due to my husband’s employment, we moved to Ceredigion in 2012. I spent the first few years as a Support Worker and Housing Officer before joining Ceredigion County Council in the Social Services department in 2016. It was whilst there that I found out about my current role as Food and Drinks Festival Co-ordinator.

I have always been a ‘foodie’ and one of my main passions is eating out and trying different foods. In my spare time, I love to cook and I’ve been on catering and cookery courses. When I’m not cooking or eating, I like attending food festivals and exploring farmers markets. That’s why everything about this role appealed to me; it not only involves organisational skills and working with people, but more importantly it involves being surrounded by food, good food!

My job
My primary role is to co-ordinate the Aberystwyth Farmers Market and the bulk of my work is carried out on the days leading up to the market. My job is part-time which I like because it gives me lots of flexibility. The Farmers Market is administered from Food Centre Wales in Horeb, where my office is based. This is where I spend the majority of my time, undertaking tasks such as updating market’s client database, licence agreements, financial systems and parking permits. Our stalls are also available for hire to external agencies, private hire, charities, schools and I deal with all those enquiries.

Although the market is administered by Ceredigion County Council via Food Centre Wales, some of my time is spent completing funding applications to generate extra income from other sources.

My colleagues at the Centre are fantastic, there’s such a great atmosphere and team spirit at the Centre, and without a doubt they’re one of the best bunch of people that I’ve worked with, I actually miss not being there on my days off!

What I enjoy most about the job is the fact that it’s so varied and I get the right balance of being office based and outdoors. When I’m not in the office, I can be seen wearing my high-vis vest and propping up the Food Centre Wales information stall at the Aberystwyth Farmers Market which runs on North Parade, Aberystwyth on the first and third Saturday of every month. The market is award winning and will be celebrating its 18th birthday this May.

Preparing for the market
On a Wednesday before the forthcoming Saturday market, the work can be quite structured, responding to the large number of emails which range from requests from potential new stall holders, a range of questions from existing stall holders, queries about upcoming special events and communication from the Environmental Health Office and Trading Standards agency. Also on a Wednesday, I’ll be attending team meetings and training courses and placing banners in various locations around Aberystwyth, promoting the market.
Stall holders are required to let me know and pay for their stall by 4pm on the Thursday before the market, therefore Thursdays are spent communicating with stallholders, dealing with payments and ensuring the financial system is up to date.

By 10am Friday, after receiving the final numbers for the market, I plan the market layout, which I’ll then notify the stallholders of and notify the contractor of the amount of stalls and tables that are required, not before checking the weather forecast for the Saturday though! After creating some promotional material displaying a list of all the stallholders, their trading name and their products, the day draws to a close with anticipation for what lies ahead in the morning. 

A large part of my role is raising awareness of the upcoming market; social media and the internet are a great way of spreading the message. I contact the Council’s Web Team to update the Aberystwyth Farmers Market website and the Food Centre Wales social media pages are updated with posts which the Council’s Communications Team then share. I also update Ceredigion Radio’s What’s on pages and share to all other relevant pages.

Market day
It’s an early start on the Saturday of a market day and I leave my house at 6am. Once I’ve met with the contractor and his team, I ensure that all the stalls and table numbers are set out correctly and organise my own information stand and other signage. The traders arrive from 7:30am onwards, and I provide assistance to traders that need an extra pair of hands, unloading and setting up their stalls. I need to be on hand to ensure that they set up on the correct stall - woe betides a stallholder that sets up on another traders pitch! Once I’ve had my morning coffee, and my goat’s cheese pasty, I am all set for the next six hours!

Trading starts from 10am and the day on the market varies from monitoring Health and Safety practice, food hygiene and litter issues, answering customers and stallholder queries, taking promotional photographs and videos and undertaking satisfaction questionnaires with customers.

On a lovely sunny day there’s no better place to be than on the market. There is a friendly, positive atmosphere from the traders and customers. The stall holders are lovely people and great fun, always happy to chat to the customers about their produce and there’s a really authentic personal feeling to the whole experience. The day flies by at the market, and nothing gives me more pleasure than when traders tell me that they’ve had a successful trading day when it’s all over.

I’ve had a couple of markets when it has been bitterly cold and rained all day and these days are not as good as the sunny Saturdays! Due to adverse weather conditions and health and safety, I’ve had to come to the hard decision to cancel two markets. I’m sure as we head into the summer we’ll have many a sunny market day where we will welcome both residents and tourists alike to try out what the market has to offer.

Everything that you see on the market is grown and produced locally by the person selling on the stall. An aspect of my job that I love is to meet existing producers at their farms and premises to see where the real work gets done. I try and do most of my own shopping by buying from the market, so seeing how the produce is grown first-hand is a bonus. I like to support the traders as much I can and the range of produce available is fantastic. My husband jokes that we eat like kings and queens during the week after a market.

I always get excited when new stallholders join us, as it means I get to try even more tasty quality food. People think that the market is just about food, but there is a great range of locally produced beers, wines, ciders and gins on the market, as well as some lovely handmade craft and gift stalls.

Aberystwyth Food, Drink and Craft Fayre
This year, we have a new event taking place on the last Saturday in September; ‘Aberystwyth Food, Drink and Craft Fayre’. We already have 30 stalls booked onto this event, and I am hoping that it will be bigger and better with even more traders attending than previous events. I’m currently looking for singers to provide live entertainment.

The Future
There’s no ‘typical’ day in the life of a Food and Drinks Festival Co-ordinator, and that’s why I enjoy my job so much. Since taking up this post, I’ve organised a food festival, a Christmas Fayre, co-ordinated new promotional material and introduced over a dozen new stalls to the market. Going forward, I am constantly thinking of ways to improve the market and will be attending workshops, seminars and training in the near future to increase my marketing, branding and promotional skills for the benefit of the market.

A special birthday
This year’s Spring Fair will be celebrating Aberystwyth Farmers’ Market’s 18th anniversary and is taking place on 19 May along North Parade, Aberystwyth between 10am and 2pm.

Come and see me and the stall holders at Aberystwyth Farmers Market. If you’d like to find out more about the markets, or are interested in setting up your own stall, contact me on 01559 362230 or on email gen@foodcentrewales.org.uk.