by Aimee Peters
Since the Australia’s first farmers’ market was established by the Victorian Farmers’ Market Association in 1999 in small town Koonwarra, Australians have embraced fresh, local produce straight off the farm.
Now replacing the quick run to the supermarket, shopping at a farmers’ market has become a monthly or weekly ritual. A regular visit to the local farmers’ market has wiped many items off the supermarket shopping list.
In 2004, there were just 28 farmers’ markets in New South Wales and 70 Australia wide. However, research from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reveals the numbers have since grown to 43 in NSW and over 160 nationally.
Farmers’ markets give consumers the opportunity to meet and talk directly with the people who grow our food. Jane Adams, spokeswoman for the Australian Farmer’s Markets Association, says, “Aussies are generally more concerned about the quality and provenance of their food. They want to know how the food is grown and that it’s healthy and clean. And there’s no better way of doing that than by shopping at a farmers’ markets.”
This year, the Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig released Australian Food
Statistics 2010-11 that showed that 69 per cent of all markets surveyed nationwide reported increased stall-holder numbers to meet the growing demand and 64 per cent of all markets surveyed reported increased shopper numbers. In terms of the future, 97 per cent of market managers reported long-term sustainability of their markets.
Farmers’ markets are not only providing Sydney with fresh produce, but are also playing a large part in the regeneration of community spirit. Many markets are now large enough events that they include cafes and entertainment food outlets so grocery shopping becomes a social experience for market-goers.
“Farmers’ markets are regular enough for people in a community to be brought together. The markets are a great place to meet new people and make friends,” Jane Adams.
Connections with farmers are also strengthened as people are able to talk with the farmers about their produce and are being educating on new varieties of food and methods of preparation. “Through this communication, farmers are also getting a better understanding of what consumers want.” Jane Adams says.
“Farmers’ markets are a win- win no matter how you look at it.”
One of Sydney’s most popular farmers’ markets is the Sydney Morning Herald’s Pyrmont Growers’ Market, held on the first Saturday of every month from 7am to 11am. Now 14 years old, it is one of Sydney’s oldest growers’ markets. Located in Pyrmont Bay Park, it has more than 85 store holders. Cooking demonstrations are held on the Growers’ Market Chef stage at 8.30am and 9.30am.
One of the city’s newest markets, Eveleigh Market has already grown in a much shorter period of time due to increased interest in farmers’ markets. Since February, it has almost matched Pyrmont Growers’ Market with 80 regular stall holders.
New markets are starting up and older ones are increasing the number of stall holders as well as becoming weekly instead of monthly. “Farmers markets in Sydney and nationwide are expected to grow exponentially and recognition of Australia’s Year of The Farmer will certainly help this,” says Jane Adams.
And so it happened.
The Governor General Quentin Bryce recognised the importance of farmers’ markets at the celebrations for the 2012 Australian Year of the Farmer. At the official launch in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens, she highlighted the vital network of farmers’ markets that connect producers and consumers, “delivering farm fresh food from paddock to plate”.
She said, “The Australian Year of the Farmer 2012 is a year-long celebration of the vital role farmer’s play in feeding, clothing and housing us all… farming is inherent to the Australian way of life.”