While visiting a local farmers’ market for the first time recently, it occurred to me that I might have slipped into another dimension by accident. Stallholders and customers were deep in conversation. People were stopping for a chat and a laugh with one another. Supermarket trolleys had made way for recycling bags. Welcome to the wonderful world of the farmers’ market.
Farmers’ markets are, quite literally, just that. They sell market produce that is often hours - not weeks – old, delivered fresh from the farm. In order to run a stall, vendors generally must grow, catch, bake or preserve all their own wares. Prices are normally cheaper, as the middle-man is cut out and the customer is essentially buying wholesale. Much of the produce is organic, seasonal, local and in as natural a state as possible. In other words, the way it used to be.
If ever there was a sign that we want to slow down and eat better, then surely the surge in popularity of farmers’ markets is it. In the US, the number of farmers’ markets grew exponentially from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009 as the country grappled with its need to reduce its junk food intake. In the UK, their popularity has never really waned thanks to a strong village culture. The benefits of buying fresh, local produce are nothing new to developing countries however, who have been doing it for eons. Happily, it’s our turn and, thanks to the trend of embracing all things community, we’ve jumped on the hay wagon with gusto.
Here is a round-up of local markets with the freshest food around.
The Fremantle Markets have been around for over one hundred years and draw an eclectic crowd, from tourists to tie-dye devotees. Already attracting 40,000 visitors per week to its 150 stalls, the markets are in the middle of an overhaul.
“Over the past year, our markets have been on a push to alter everything,” says its business development manager and ‘Food Hour’ radio presenter Ann Meyer.
“Our main emphasis is to get rid of the middle-man, concentrate on the local producer and make sure everything’s grown direct.
“We’ve got Abhis Bakery making fresh bread on the premises with local organic flours to make the Yard as organic bio-dynamic as possible. We’ve also just secured one of WA’s best organic farmers, Shuan Lamb. You can’t get his produce anywhere else, it will just be at the Fremantle Markets.”
Open all day Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Cnr Henderson St & South Terrace, Fremantle.
Mt Claremont Farmers Market
After their humble beginnings in 2007 with eight stalls, this market now boasts over 50 stall holders and attracts nearly 3,000 customers a week. It is a community-based project that sells all manner of things, from organic cheeses, yoghurts and produce to gourmet chorizo sausages, hand-made chocolate, fresh coffee and French pastries. Just make sure you get there early.
“Our lettuce truck is what really sets us apart,” laughs Natasha Atkinson, the market’s manager.
“It pulls in, the side opens and there are crates of lettuce that people queue for. And I’m talking 30 to 40 people in a queue. At our recent night market, we had a queue from one end of the basketball court to the other. It’s super fresh - they pick the lettuce that morning. I did the ten day fresh test, and it lasted the full ten days in the fridge.”
Bring your dog, grab a coffee and buy the paper while you’re there.
Mt Claremont Primary School, 103 Alfred Road, Mt Claremont.
Perth City Farm Organic Growers’ Market
For the past six years, a small green sanctuary has been blooming in the heart of Perth’s concrete jungle. These markets are a little different to the others around town in that every vendor is a bona-fide certified organic grower.
“What we wanted to do was to educate the public on how necessary it is to support organic and bio-dynamic farmers,” explains director Rosanne Scott.
“All the products that people trade in our market building have to be certified organic bio-dynamic. People can’t just go and buy from someone else and sell here. The only retailer at our market is ourselves, City Farm, and everything we use is certified organic.”
As would be expected, the stallholders also represent the environment.
“We have Environment House who sell environmentally-friendly products, books and worm farms,” says Rosanne.
“And there’s chooks, ducks, geese, guinea pigs and rabbits for the kids to enjoy. People can get an organic coffee, where not only the coffee is certified organic but the milk and sugar as well. We try really hard to keep that ethical line and be vigilant.”
1 City Place, East Perth.
Subiaco Farmers Market
Having just unfurled their banner recently, new-kid-on-the block Subiaco Market has already attracted a strong following, despite the heat.
“We started with 37 stalls, and we opened when it was 37 degrees,” recalls founder Sally Lewis.
“We’ve had great support from the community since then. There’s a really nice village atmosphere going on, where friends can gather and have a coffee while the kids have a play.
As a trained nutritionist, it was only natural that quality would be a priority.
“My focus is on getting top quality produce, with minimal spray, that is picked as close to market day as possible”, says Sally
“For example, our flowers are picked at 5am that morning. Our lettuce, spinach and greens are all picked on the Friday. Same with our fruit, such raspberries, cherries and apples. It was really important to me to sell produce that actually lasts.”
Autumn is also set to be a bumper crop, with home-made stock on the menu and a new stall that makes its own pasta.
“A lady from Vergones’ Fresh Produce has ordered a 200kg pasta machine from Italy and will be making gorgeous home-made pasta,” says Sally.
Open Sat 8am-12pm.
Subiaco Primary School, 271 Bagot Road, Subiaco
Other farmers markets to check out:
· Albany – Collie Street
· Gascoyne – Carnarvon Civic Centre
· Geraldton – cnr Maitland Street and Cathedral Avenue
· Manjimup – The Shed, Rose Street (every 3rd Sat)
· Manning – Clontarf Aboriginal College, Manning Road
· Margaret River – Community Centre, Tunbridge Street (every 4th Sat)
· Mondo’s - 824 Beaufort Street, Inglewood
· Peel – Pinjarra Civic Centre, Pinjarra
· York – 83 Avon Terrace
· Armadale – Council carpark, Jull Street
· Boyanup Memorial Park, South-Western Hwy (every 4th Sun)
· Eaton (near Bunbury) – Recreation Drive
· Kalamunda – Central Mall
· Mandurah Peel – Western Foreshore
· Midland – the Crescent
· Western – cnr High & Montreal Streets, Fremantle