Farmers’ markets are essential for small farm businesses, especially during a year like 2020.
At their heart, farmers' markets are a place for food producers and consumers to connect directly in the buying and selling process. There are numerous farmers’ markets across Australia that give you a chance to meet the person who grew your food. While supermarkets celebrate convenience as the focal point of food shopping, farmers markets offer something different: A chance to make a difference as you shop.
Every week, there are farmers' markets held all around the country, but not every pop up collection of stalls is a true farmers’ market. The Australian Farmers’ Market Association says that the most critical defining factor of a farmers’ markets is that they are a regular, public event that allows food producers and consumers to come together to buy and sell fresh food.
“A Farmers’ Market is a predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community, at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and specialty food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added specialty foods for human consumption, and plant products, directly to customers,” they say on their website. In other words, at a true farmers’ market, you are buying your produce directly from the person who grew or made it. Here's our list of our favourite markets from across Australia.
There can be no doubt that 2020 has been a difficult year for Australian farmers. Although the drought eased for many, not everyone had the same quenching rains. Not only that, many farmers had to contend with devastating bushfires and floods. Now our food producers are dealing with the unexpected consequences of a global pandemic. Borders are closed, making transport of goods difficult, and farmers are finding it hard to get the workers they need to harvest their produce.
Although supermarkets have been busy during this time, small farms that can’t provide the volume and reliability of product that supermarkets demand often supply cafes, restaurants and other hospitality enterprises instead. They are currently finding themselves unable to sell their quality goods because COVID restrictions (and in some cases, complete lockdowns) have limited the trade of those hospitality enterprises. For these farm businesses, farmers’ markets have been a saviour during COVID-19, allowing the farmer to sell their restaurant-quality food directly to the public when it is harvested.
Just because farmers benefit from farmers’ markets, doesn’t mean shoppers miss out. Farmers’ markets allow food consumers to buy high-quality goods without the retail margin. On top of that, there’s no middle-man taking a cut so you can know that your money is actually supporting a local farmer. Farmer’s markets also allow foodies to try exciting new products from small suppliers who may not be able to get supermarket shelf space.
Buying directly from a local farmer often ensures your produce is fresher. For many products, this will also mean that it is also better for you. For instance, nutrients in products like fruits and vegetables, nuts and olive oil degrade over time, so fresher really is better. A strong local food system, involving lots of connections between the people who grow and the people who eat the food, also means that there is an opportunity to build community and share knowledge about food and cooking just in the simple act of buying food.
Prior to COVID-19, the social side of farmers’ markets was an important part of the overall shopping experience. Many provided patrons with coffee carts, food vans and live music to ensure a lively atmosphere that encouraged people to linger.
The 2020 pandemic has meant that most markets cannot do this anymore. However, because farmers markets are an essential business, they are still running and they have one distinct benefit over supermarkets. Their mostly-outdoor locations make it easy to social distance! So, there really has never been a better time than now to shop at a farmers’ market for your weekly food needs.
What’s your favourite farmers’ market? Check out our list of favourites to see if you agree!