Wherever you live in Australia, you’re bound to be close to a farmers’ market. These are the vibrant community spaces where everyone from local producers to backyard amateurs get the chance to sell their (mostly) organic produce. There is usually entertainment, events for kids, great coffee, and of course many, many food stalls (depending on the size of the market). It’s an event that brings the community together. Just as importantly though, it’s a great place to save money on organic food.
At my local market — the Blayney Farmers’ Market in country NSW — we locals flock to the stalls, all of which offer a variety of produce. It is a microcosm of the larger events that happen in regional cities in the area such as Bathurst or Orange. Held on the third Saturday of every month, the markets feature a range of products including organic vegetables, organically-raised meats, cheeses, herbs and spices, chocolate, virgin olive oil, fruit, artisan products as well as a community stall for locals selling their own backyard veggies.
From a personal perspective — and our view is shared by many others — my wife and I love our monthly visits to the Blayney markets and use it to stock up on as many organic veggies as we can afford. Our first stop is at a stall that features delightful pickles* to grab a couple of jars of this delicious locally-produced delicacy that is both organic and excellent for good gut health. Stunning sauerkraut can also be found on the same stall and a quick chat with the stallholders will give you an idea of the passion they hold for their organically-produced masterpieces.
We’re also mindful of the amount of work that goes into the setting up and running of the markets and the benefit they provide for the local community.
The concept of “keeping it local” gives local farmers another outlet to sell their wares, an important consideration where competition with supermarkets selling imported goods — and those from other regions in Australia — is intense. Blayney Farmers’ Markets manager Danielle Stonestreet — one of a committee of locals who run the markets — says one of their aims is to provide an opportunity for these small-scale producers to sell at competitive prices.
“People can save through purchasing food direct from farmers who can sell higher quality foods at competitive prices as it cuts out the middleman,” said Danielle to The Real Food Chain. “At Blayney Farmers Market we sell a lot of meat – beef, lamb, goat and poultry and a lot of fruit and veg. People more than save money because they are supporting the farmer direct and know exactly where their food is coming from.”
One of the goals we have set ourselves at The Real Food Chain is to show you how to add more organic food to your diet without breaking the family food budget. Farmers’ markets are a great way to achieve this aim. Usually held once a month or so, the markets provide an essential point to plan ahead and stock up on organic vegetables, pickles, preserves and ethically-raised meat. It also serves as an important place for locals to meet, chat and catch up with people.
As Danielle puts it: “A lot of the locals who frequent the markets use it as an excuse to stock up on high-quality produce and to catch up with friends.”
Back to the future?
Farmers’ markets aren’t new of course. They stretch back to the dawn of trading and agriculture. For hundreds of years in a number of cultures, farmers have carried their produce into a central town or village to sell to buyers. The traditional markets formed the backbone of commerce yet in recent decades have been usurped by supermarkets, malls and more recently online ordering.
However farmers’ markets are making a big comeback. Many consumers are demanding that the food they buy is from local farmers — not imported — to support the local community. To me, and many other shoppers interested in organic foods but at a reasonable price, this is exciting. To underline Danielle’s point, we want to know where their food is coming from and whether or not it has been sprayed with chemicals. If, like us, you are lucky enough to live within striking distance of a few markets, it’s possible to plan your organic fruit and vegetable shopping throughout the month. Usually they are staggered so they don’t clash with each other.
Indeed, some farmers’ markets are heralding the return of superior tasting fruit and vegetables. This is because much of the produce we see in on our supermarket shelves hasn’t been bred for taste. Take the humble tomato as an example. It is required to travel many kilometres around our country before being delivered to fruit shops and supermarkets. Therefore tomato breeders select those hybrids bred for their tough exteriors, not their taste. As a result, the hybrids seen in our supermarkets are tough and tasteless compared to traditional “heirloom” types that were selected carefully by our ancestors, specifically for taste. If you’re used to shop-bought tomatoes, try a few of these beautiful tomatoes and discover the difference!
There is a boom in demand for organic tomatoes with this traditional taste, the type our great grandparents used to enjoy. Farmers’ markets are providing a platform for this spectacular return of the best tasting fruit and vegetables.
The chance to buy locally-grown (often organically-grown) produce is also a chance to support local farmers and suppliers and begin buying fresh food at a discounted price. Check your local area’s social media pages for listings of farmers’ markets in your area or use the handy Find-A-Market website.
*Grandma Rose’s Spicy Pickled Red Cabbage (Fermented). Ingredients: Baby red cabbage, cider vinegar, spices, peppercorn, salt. Email here for more details.