Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The West Austn: Shoppers head for the great outdoors

There is a quiet movement shaping the way West Australians shop. People are trading their supermarket trolleys in for the great outdoors as they head to their local farmers' market at the weekend for their fresh fruit and veg, bread, meat, fish, cheese and eggs.

Local jewellery designer Robin Wells is one such person who has made the switch.

"Generally the prices are similar or cheaper than what you would pay in the supermarket, but everything tastes so much better," Ms Wells says.

"I bought some apricots from the Manning farmers' market the other day and they were just like the ones you used to pick off the tree when you were a kid. They had so much flavour and were so sweet. I suppose that's what you get when fruit is left to ripen on the tree for a little bit longer and is not put into storage."

According to industry research giant IBISWorld, Australia is on the brink of an organic farming boom, which is tipped to be one of the top two growth industries this year. And it looks as though farmers' markets are set to benefit.

"The major movement away from supermarkets has been over the last five years, more particularly in the last two," says Australian Farmers' Markets Association chairwoman Jane Adams.

"And that has been for several reasons. The first is local versus global.

"Living in a globalised world, people are starting to feel as though they have lost control of their lives.

"They want to retrieve that sense of control, so they are wanting to know where their food comes from and who grew it, or just get into the ethos of eating fresh and much closer to the source.

"Another reason is reconnecting with one another. Not just with the farmer, but with the people standing next to them at the farmers' market. You have conversations with other customers standing waiting to buy food.

"People want to shop in an environment that has a community feel. They can shop as a family as well and, really, who has a conversation at a supermarket? If you're supermarket shopping with children, it's usually 'No, you can't have that pink fizzy drink', but at a farmers' market, children can choose the food they want to eat. Everybody engages as a family and with one another.

"From a shoppers' point of view, farmers' markets get a tick for all these reasons".

Ms Wells agrees.

"Because the farmers' markets are open on a weekend, you get to do the shopping with the whole family, in a more social atmosphere. Usually there will be samples to taste, which is an opportunity you don't get in the supermarket.

"It's a fun thing to do and it's so kid friendly. Shopping isn't a chore any more.

"When you've got kids, you really take into consideration what they're eating. So if you can guarantee it's fresh, then you know it can only be a good thing.

"At home, we generally cook with more whole foods now instead of processed food so I'm finding I don't need to buy as many things at the supermarket. My trolley is getting less and less filled every time I visit.

"I think people are becoming more aware of good quality fresh produce."

Link to article in Fresh, The West Australian, January 2010