The New Year always brings with it a feeling of making a fresh start and doing things better or differently in the year ahead. Milton Keynes now has a vibrant and well-established independent food and drink scene and there promises to be a whole host of amazing markets and events once again in 2019 so why not make a resolution to shop local and support small businesses this year.

There are an impressive seven farmers markets that happen locally every month. Olney and Winslow are on the first Sunday of every month. Wolverton takes place on both the first and third Saturday of every month. Stony Stratford is on the last Friday of every month and Newport Pagnell is the third Friday. Woburn pops up on the third Sunday of every month and Leighton Buzzard happens on the third Saturday. The hardy farmer market stallholders will be out during January so come along and support them straight away and start 2019 they way you mean to go on.

In addition to these, a handful of local foodies can be found every Saturday in Odell’s Yard in Stony Stratford and every Friday there is a community market in the Old Bath House in Wolverton which offers a good range of local crafts and handmade foods. If getting things delivered is more convenient for you then both Riverford Veg and Moorgate Farm have veg box delivery services that run all year, with fruit and vegetables changing with the seasons.

The Old Bath House is also the location of the Wolverton Community Fridge and this is an excellent place to take unwanted food or to pick up food donated by shops and others. They hold a café every Thursday, using their donated food and all the food on offer is free, regardless of your circumstances. From January through to March, they are also hosting a number of free cookery workshops for secondary school aged teenagers. These take place on Friday afternoons from 4pm and all the ingredients are provided free too. Places do, however, need to be booked in advance.  Look out for other community fridges popping up in 2019, including one in Great Linford.

Fans of street food can look forward to enjoying more regular events during 2019 too. Eat Street MK returns in March and then takes place on the 1stFriday of every month at York House, Stony Stratford. And Newport Pagnell Streetfood organise events on the third Friday of the month to raise funds for their big event and fireworks in November.  If you can’t wait that long for a street food fix then Good Times Café will be in Market Square in Stony Stratford on 1st January at the Vintage Car event and MK Biergarten are continuing their monthly Street Food Friday events, with the January edition taking place on 11th January (6-9pm) with Little Oven of Joy serving pizzas.

If you enjoy a tipple, then you will be sure to enjoy the annual beer festivals and the cider and sausage festivals that take place locally every summer. The MK Biergarten hold a monthly Bierclub and in January this takes place on 14thJanuary, taking New Zealand as the theme for the choice of 6 beer tasters and paired snacks.  Between 18 and 20th January, the MK Biergarten will also be hosting a mini festival of local and craft cask beers so pop along to enjoy CaskFest.

Wharf distillery is one to watch for all things related to spirits. Having recently closed their shop at Wakefield Courtyard, they have relocated their alcoholic beverages to The Drinks Shed at Cherry Lane Nursery, Potterspury.  During January, CAMRA are promoting Tryanuary, to encourage people to try different beers and to reflect this, there will be over 50 different beers available at The Drinks Shed during January, with tasters available. They are also running a promotion called “Drink Ginuary Dry”, with 10% off any bottle of dry gin. Starting in March, they will be running a Gin School and they are now accepting bookings for this at their online store.

There are annual events that are worth noting down in your fresh new diary. The Olney Pancake Day Race happens on Shrove Tuesday and in March local cafes will be offering Mother’s Day afternoon tea specials. For Easter, why not make a break from the supermarket eggs and support a local chocolatier such as The Chocolate Mill MK or Petite Cherie.

Stand out food festivals to catch in 2019 will be Althorp Food & Drink Festival in May, Frosts Food Festival in August, the MKFoodFest in September, the Northampton Winter Food Festival in November and Dickens of a Christmas in December.  And don’t forget the Apple Day events that take place in October too.

Meanwhile, as most of the local traders recover from a hectic run up to Christmas, there are a few events taking place during January to keep you amused or to educate you.

On 5th January, the Mid Shires Orchard Group invite you to the Woughton Winter Wassail from 1.30 to 4.00pm at Woughton Orchard. Bring the family and join them for their traditional New Year celebration, to wish good health for the orchards, wealth for the community and a bountiful fruit harvest. Bring musical instruments, pans and spoons, whistles or anything noisy! Help to make a jolly din to chase away pesky spirits as you process round the fruit trees, then fete the decorated ‘King and Queen of the Orchard’ and sing the traditional Wassail songs. Enjoy orchard-themed refreshments and a winter wander around the fruit trees to finish. Free entry but donations welcomed towards refreshments.

Those taking part in Veganuary may wish to know that the Veganuary Edition of Ramming it Down Your Throats takes place at the Craufurd Arms, Wolverton, on 6th January between 12-5pm. Vegan food will be available from AVegetative State, Minkiemoo Bakery, Vego and Aunt Norma. On 27th January there is a Winter Vegan Fair at Hanslope Village Hall between 11am and 4pm, providing another opportunity to buy vegan food and goods.

If you are looking to take part in a new kind of local dining experience in 2019 then visit www.noidining.com. NOI, meaning ‘us’ in Italian, is a social dining platform that lists local in-home restaurants together in one place. NOI gives hosts a chance to make an additional income from home, whilst sharing the food they love with paying guests. Think of them as the Airbnb for food! If you would like to get involved and become a host (or know of someone who might), then please drop them a line, they’d love to hear from you.

Food courses during January include Charcuterie Making and Sausage Making at Coldsmoking Cookery School, Afternoon Tea Pastries at Claire Clark Academy, and Indian Cuisine with Saf’s Kitchen. Take a look soon before they get fully booked.

So get yourself organised, make a plan and enjoy amazing local food and drink events throughout 2019.