"ON APRIL 3,1999, the very first modern farmers market opened in Perth, where farmers from Perthshire brought their home grown produce into the city centre to sell their wares to the good people of Perth – this year is the market’s 20th anniversary and it is still going, as are many others throughout the country.

The idea for a farmers market in Scotland was born out of my frustration at the collapse in trade, and negativity being thrown at the farming industry by the media because of the BSE crisis. The full story of setting the market up and 'The Fury and Passion that started it all' can be read on www.jimfairlie.com, but it was essentially a crisis that was affecting the beef sector.

There were a number of scare stories that then developed out of it with red meat and GM crops being the target for mass media negativity. I suppose today we have the ability to respond immediately because of social media, but back then we were very much at the mercy of newspaper editors. As a shepherd I was increasingly frustrated that all my hard work and dedication were being trashed, and financially I was worried about my ability to make a living with a young family.

My response was to set up Perth farmers market.

I then travelled round the country helping other areas establish markets, and campaigned for far more dialogue between farmers, consumers and government. Looking back at it, the initial aims I had were met. We got far more Scottish Government awareness and involvement, like the National Food and Drink policy from Richard Lochhead. We had supermarkets far more engaged in direct sourcing and Scottish branding. We worked hard at getting local authority public procurement to became far more focussed on local buying and value for money, and consumers became far more farmer friendly and engaged. We managed to change the media narrative to a certain extent because they started to give us positive coverage as the custodians and architects of Scotland’s amazing landscape, and suppliers of world class food.

There are obviously some caveats to that assessment, but our food drink and farming sector are in a far better shape now than they were 20 years ago.

In terms of public engagement, increased industry turnover, exports and a real belief that Ambition 2030 is achievable, we have a lot to be positive about so I suppose that can be seen as a degree of success.

However, we, as an industry and you as consumers, are now facing a much greater challenge than BSE, foot-and-mouth and 'Frankenstein food' scare stories all rolled into one, and that is Brexit.

I’m not going to dwell on the politics of it here, because there are plenty of opinions already being promulgated in every corner of the media.

Trade deals will be done and there is every likelihood that imports of certain foods from areas of the world that we currently don’t have, will happen. It is possible we could see American hormone-injected beef or chlorinated chicken, or an influx of lamb at prices far below what we can produce it for in Scotland. It may mean dilution or loss of iconic brands like Scotch beef and lamb or specially selected pork, and a drive to homogenise all our food products as Great British.

The recent results announced by Welsh farming leaders, that by replacing the Union Jack with the Welsh flag on packs of potatoes saw an increase of up to 33% in sales in some Aldi stores, is testimony to what many of us in the industry already know – our brand matters. Buying locally matters.

Having a safe secure domestic food producing sector matters. And, more importantly, more and more consumers realise it matters, and are supporting it in their shopping habits.

Farmers markets were born out of one crisis 20 years ago, and it just might be the case that a new local buying revolution is about to start because of the Brexit crisis. Without that consumer support for our iconic branded products and buying locally, the optimism of Ambition 2030 will flounder, and that’s why a new market venue opening has got me very excited.

The Argyle St Arches in Glasgow City Centre has been repurposed as a food, drink and market destination. There is a cracking 'Street food' section serving authentic top-quality street food in the open plan seating area. They’ve teamed up with Innis and Gunn and opened a microbrewery pouring exclusive Arch brews and the freshest tank lager.

The next development is the food, makers and farmers market, and we are delighted to be a part of it. It was pure coincidence that they had their grand opening on March 31, almost 20 years to the day when we started Perth, but for me it ties in brilliantly and we were super excited to be part of it. I have worked with them to help bring in some fantastic artisan quality food producers who are as passionate about their products, as I am about our beef, lamb and mutton.

The ambition from the guys at the Argyle St Arches is to create Scotland’s very own Borough Market (London's huge and high value artisan food market, situated near London Bridge). All it takes is brilliant artisan producers with unique quality products to sell, consumers to support it, and there’s no reason why that can’t be achieved."