Farmers’ markets endure and prosper
Once seen as a niche concept that you’d only find in “alternative” areas, farmers’ markets are now an established part of Australian society. During COVID, they have also proven themselves to be a vital and reliable link in our increasingly fragile food supply chains.
“When I started talking about farmers’ markets back in the late ’90s, people suggested they would be a fad,” says Jane Adams, Chair of the Australian Farmers Markets Association. “Then I crossed my fingers and rebutted the doubters. Now, 20-plus years later, we have more than 200 authentic farmers’ markets nationally.”
Markets mostly trade weekly – in schoolyards, parking lots, church grounds, parks and repurposed sheds. Some have had to temporarily relocate to provide a more COVID-safe shopping environment. But this is part of the appeal. Shopping outside in the fresh air and sunshine is a far more enjoyable and healthy experience than pushing a trolley down narrow supermarket aisles illuminated by unnatural fluorescent lighting.
Many farmers’ markets around Australia have been in operation now for years. And this February, several are celebrating big birthdays. We fire up the birthday candles and raise a congratulatory glass of locally produced bubbles to the following markets.
Willunga Farmers’ Market
South Australia’s Willunga Farmers’ Market reaches a significant milestone this month, celebrating 20 years. The market began with a small but enthusiastic group of local producers and community members who wanted to showcase the very best that the Fleurieu Peninsula had to offer. Opening with just 18 stalls in the car park of the Alma Hotel in February 2002, the inaugural Willunga Farmers’ Market was a resounding success.
The market flourished, soon outgrowing its first location. It found a new home at the Willunga Town Square. Since COVID, a temporary location at the more spacious grounds of Willunga High School has been established. The market now supports more than 80 family farms and artisan food producers. All bring agricultural diversity and fresh, seasonal, sustainably grown choices direct to the community each week. Last year, Willunga Farmers’ Market was named Outstanding Farmers’ Market at the delicious. Produce Awards.
Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market also has a special birthday this February. It’s celebrating a decade of local produce and community spirit. Three thousand people attended the inaugural market in February 2012; now it takes place every week at the Cimitiere Street car park in Launceston. More than 80 stallholders travel from all over Tasmania to sell their produce here. You’ll find fresh fruit and veg, meats and seafood, cakes and breads, cheese and eggs. The market has become an intrinsic part of the local community, and regularly holds events to celebrate the best that Tasmania has to offer.
In 2017, Harvest Launceston was the winner of the delicious. Produce Awards Outstanding Farmers’ Market award. The market also received an honourable mention in 2021.
Mt Pleasant Farmers’ Market
Another success story celebrating 10 years of quality local produce this February is Mt Pleasant Farmers’ Market in South Australia. Located in an ideal location between the Barossa, the Adelaide Hills and the Murraylands, Mt Pleasant Farmers’ Market has access to some of the finest produce to be found in the state. Independent family farms and local producers sell their wares each week at the Mt Pleasant Showgrounds. Customers can choose from an abundance of free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, smallgoods, local wines and cheeses, fruit and vegetables, Spencer Gulf seafood, a wide range of dairy products and artisan breads. You can even enjoy a gourmet breakfast in the wisteria atrium at Shed2Full, which has been operating since the market’s inception.
Kiama Farmers’ Market
This February, Kiama Farmers’ Market on NSW’s south coast marks eight successful years. Each week, local growers, artisans and producers offer a selection of seasonal fruit and veg, seafood, meats, honey, eggs, milk straight from the dairy, gelato made from local milk, cider and wine, cakes, preserves, breads, street food and ready-made meals. Pecora Dairy regularly sells its award-winning sheep’s milk cheese at the market. You’ll find Kiama Farmers’ Market at Coronation Park, right next to Surf Beach. This makes it the perfect picturesque shopping or picnicking spot for local families, community members and visitors to the region. There’s also live entertainment on offer, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.
Here to stay
The continued success of farmers’ markets shows there’s a growing number of Australians realising the value of local food systems. Having the opportunity to meet the person who produced the food you’re buying offers a true feeling of authenticity. It’s something that so many of us have found ourselves yearning for in an increasingly commercialised and sterile retail environment. There’s a realness to it that could never be replicated in a supermarket.
“The hard-working farmers, food producers, market managers and legions of local food shoppers have enthusiastically nurtured a new link in Australia’s food chain,” Adams says. “It’s farm-fresh and artisan food supplied direct from the source.”
But it’s not just food security, reliability and assured provenance that’s made our farmers’ markets thrive. It’s the sense of community they foster that makes them so appealing to Australians seeking connection and a place of belonging.
“They are colourful, healthy and community connected,” Adams continues. “Consumers have voted with their baskets and trolleys. Farmers’ markets are definitively not a fad.”