As the trading bell rings at Kiama Farmers’ Market each week, hundreds of shoppers get ready to fill their baskets with the best local produce, from hand-picked blackberries to freshly-baked bread. Since launching in 2013, the Kiama Farmers’ Market has become an integral part of the local community, bridging the gap between the people and producers of the Illawarra.
With nine out of ten Australian consumers now preferring to buy locally, farmer’s markets are becoming an increasingly popular feature on the weekly calendar. To better understand their benefits for producers and consumers, we sat down with Kiama Farmers’ Market Manager, Tricia Ashelford, to chat about why shopping at farmers’ markets are so good for the community.
“Obesity is a massive problem in this country. Farmers’ markets promote education about eating fresh, whole foods, and about knowing where your food really comes from. It doesn’t come from aisle seven; it comes from the ground, or a tree, or a cow. It’s important to know the story of food before it hits your plate.”
“People come up and ask me, ‘where are your bananas?’ Well, we don’t grow bananas on the South Coast, or if we do it’s for a very small part of the year. That’s just the way it is. It’s important to understand and embrace seasonality. And that also means enjoying something all the more. When there’s a glut of vine tomatoes, enjoy them! And this is the last week of the raspberries, so relish them!”
“[Kiama Farmers’ Market] being an afternoon market, it means that produce has been picked that very morning. It’s really at its best for the consumer. Because things are picked at their peak, it also means flavour is so much better than what you’d get anywhere else. There is a different taste to fresh food, and you enjoy it even better when you understand the story.”
“A small community like this, where people get to know producers, they understand that at a small volume level, there are challenges and fluctuations. Sometimes you get a bad crop; for whatever reason it just didn’t hold up that week. It’s a healthier understanding of food. We really try to communicate to people the challenges that producers are facing. We want to ensure that it’s an inclusive community.”
“Land values are so high at the moment. If you’re not making a living off your land – and a developer is knocking at your door – it’s tempting for a lot of farmers. Yet it’s so short sighted for a community to lose its agricultural links. Farmers can’t survive without direct-selling mechanisms in place; they can’t survive off wholesale alone. Farmers markets are very important to value-adding to the land and produce.”