My visit to the farmers' market this morning has left me feeling quite depressed. Apart from one stall whose produce is always snapped up the moment they start trading there are signs that producers are struggling. Independent shops too. The nearby organic butcher admitted sales were down and that the farm from which his meat comes had had to lay off workers.
But a new Italian-style café nearby was buzzing with people out for breakfast and brunch.
What to make of it all? Obviously some people have money but don't choose to spend it on organic food - or even on cooking from scratch. If half of the local food producers go to the wall I don't honestly think they would very much care. There's a new Waitrose down the road so what's the problem?
It's the people who have bought into the organic and local movement over the last 10 years that I'm more concerned about. They surely did so for a reason - healthier food for their families and/or supporting small producers to ensure a diverse local food culture. Now that times are hard surely these things are just as important? Even if you buy slightly less often or spend less when you do, it makes a difference.
Small producers don't always do themselves a favour, true. Being small and farming organically doesn't necessarily mean you produce quality food. Pricing is sometimes ridiculous (some artisanal cheeses cost more per kilo than fillet steak) Few seem to use any imagination about the way they present and market their goods - offering deals to tempt their customers into buying more but the main problem seems to be that their case is going by default.
The Fairtrade Foundation has done a fantastic job of making us more conscious of the value of supporting third world producers but someone needs to do a similar job for our homegrown ones or very few of them will survive the current downturn.
And those of us who do still buy from them should be prepared to put our heads above the parapet and say how important it is, even at the risk of jibes about being elitist. If it was worth paying extra to feed our families healthy food a year ago, it still is now, even if we have to give up something else to do it.
Is this a fair analysis? Let me know what you think. Are you finding your local food shops are struggling? Have you cut down the amount you spend on food from small producers? Do you feel you can afford to pay the prices they charge? Do we owe them a living or should market forces prevail?