How do you meet the challenges technology poses to traditional forms of community life and engagement? If you're Beccles Farmers' Market, the answer is, with an outstretched hand and a smile on your face!

After 17 years of running a twice-monthly traditional farmers' market, exclusively featuring local producers from a 30 mile radius, Beccles Farmers' Market has diversified - whilst they are keeping the traditional market alive and well, they have also launched an online shopping option, still with the same local suppliers and fresh, quality produce, which will run alongside the original farmers' market.

The online market will offer people the option to collect their order at the physical market - something which may be attractive for those in the community with health issues, disabilities, care responsibilities or mental health challenges, who find it difficult, or too time-consuming, to shop at the regular market, but who still want to maintain that physical link with their community - or to have it delivered to their door, ideal for those whose working pattern means they simply aren't able to attend the market, or for those whose disabilities or health challenges mean they are unable to drive, as well as those unable to afford to run a vehicle.

Community engagement - evolving, embracing, enduring

It is all too easy for communities, particularly rural ones, to complain that "young people don't care about community anymore", and that "technology is taking over everything." In the UK, still adjusting to the aftermath of Brexit, technology is often portrayed as the evil seducer, luring people, especially younger people, into a "globalised future", where nationalities, community identity - and, with it, community involvement - are deemed "irrelevant", and erased in favour of a broader church of global union.

But young people - and particularly those adults newly living independently, are the vanguard of our future society. A growing number of these young people exclusively shop online for groceries. Many disabled people, and those with mental health issues and lifelong health challenges, often have no other option but to shop online; the logistics around accessibility of physical spaces, meeting care needs outside the home, and ability to drive, or not, all conspire to shut people with health challenges and disabilities away from their communities, as surely and as comprehensively as the asylums of previous years ever did.

Technology isn't an evil force - it is a change that has emerged as the result of many other, less obvious changes, and it will only destroy you, and your way of life, if you let it.

Future focus

Beccles Farmers' Market have no plans to allow technology to destroy them. I, for one, wish them well. Tradition isn't simply standing still as the world changes around you, and, eventually, ending up obsolete. Rather, tradition is about picking the very best of your identity or community, and ensuring that, in some recognisable form, it endures throughout the shifts of the world around it.

These other articles show that true tradition lasts, whatever changes and challenges the future holds:

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