Farmers' markets must be accessible to all and not just for the privileged few, the Government Minister for Food and Farming said during a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon farmers' market.
Lord Bach, who presented The Birmingham Post award for the best farmers' market in the region (pictured above), said he believed the farmers' market movement was vital to reconnect producers with consumers.
Stratford-upon-Avon was crowned winner in the Market Masters competition, sponsored by the National Farm-ers' Union and Defra's Rural Development Service.
Lord Bach praised The Birmingham Post for launching the awards in 2004 to honour the most inspiring and innovative farmers' market in the West Midlands.
Following a tour of the market, he said: "The diversity of produce that I have seen on display is a testament to the thriving rural businesses that we have in this region.
"Farmers' markets represent an opportunity to experience the innovation in food production that exists in the countryside. Many significant food ventures, which began as a hobby selling through a farmers' market, have now developed into substantial businesses in their own right.
"They play a vital role in reconnecting the consumer with the primary producer, a connection which is all too often lost in today's convenience era."
Lord Bach said while Stratford-upon-Avon attracted a wide range of customers, some markets were in danger of appealing to the privileged few due to high prices.
"I do think there is a danger of that and that can't continue. It is important to widen the scope as much as possible.
"There is no doubt that many people that do their shopping at farmers' markets like to purchase things that are fresh, healthy and have a connection with the farm that actually grew them.
"In areas where there is food poverty, where there isn't enough supermarkets in that area, the farmers' market movement does give that chance for a reconnection and I think The Birmingham Post has to be congratulated on leading the way in the West Midlands with this competition."
The market in Stratford-upon-Avon takes place on the first and third Saturdays of each month and has an average of 35 stalls selling a wide range of produce, including locally brewed ale, speciality cheeses, breads, soups, honey, meat, and cakes as well as fruit and vegetables.
Mike Wilkes, chairman of market organisers Warwickshire Farmers' Markets Ltd, said: "We are overjoyed to win, this is great news for Stratford but I think it's brilliant news for farmers' markets in general. I'm really chuffed that the competition takes place and the judges have taken on board all the elements of what a farmers' market should be.
"Farmers' markets should stand for something local which is what it's all about. At Stratford we have an accreditation system to check people are what they say, and that ensures that the produce on sale really is what the public wants - local."
More than 20 of the region's 59 farmers' markets entered the competition and of these, six markets were shortlisted and visited by representatives from The Birmingham Post, Defra and the NFU.
Teme Valley Farmers' Market in Worcestershire was awarded the runner-up prize of #100 plus a certificate.
Other markets on the shortlist were Ludlow, Stourbridge, Moseley and Birmingham.