Don’t buy food from strangers

Posted: October 2, 2012 by elizabethwright0 in Melbourne

There is an increasing trend in Melbourne and wider Victoria of individuals and families shying away from large, well known, supermarket franchises and instead, opting to shop locally and independently at farmers’ markets.

Primarily a farmers’ market is an opportunity for people to buy fresh, mostly organic, that they would not otherwise have access to. The Victorian Farmers’ Market Association elaborates as “predominantly local fresh food and produce market that operates regularly at a public location which provides a suitable environment for farmers and food producers to sell their farm origin product and their associated value added primary products directly to customers”.

At the markets there is a strong rapport between market goers and growers, something that is entirely impossible at a franchise supermarket like Woolworths or Coles. Consumers can interact and find out more about the product and where it’s come from.

A research paper published in January published by the Department of Primary Industries suggests that the increased interest in sourcing local, organic, produce is represented by the public concern in environment sustainability, humane treatment of animals, and the livelihood of farmers and producers.

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The markets are also attractive to environmentalists and others concerned for the earth, because of the no plastic bag policy and consumers are heavily encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. The focus is on minimal waste and recycling. Packaging is generally made from recyclable, paper or easily reusable materials.

Sandy Leatham, a stall holder at two major Melbourne Farmer’s Markets, has been attending and selling her produce at the markets for nearly five years. She was initially drawn to the markets with the premise of reaching a broader range of people and ”foodies”. Something that isn’t otherwise possible in her small town.

“For me it’s financially viable, but also it’s such a great place to interact with my customers and network with other producers that it’s fantastic for the business.  I have to admit it is also a really nice social morning.”

“For me it’s a two way relationship.  As the producer, I’m always keen to get feedback directly from customers about my wares.  This helps me to plan for the next markets.  The customer can get very relevant information about the product they are buying, such as nutrition information and cooking tips.  I think it has to mean a more efficient market place, with such great two way communication” Ms Leatham said.

Findings in Social and Economic Dimensions of Farmers Markets in Australia, released in 2011 by Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig, surveyed 72 farmers’ market managers, and showed market numbers have more than doubled from 2004 to 2011.

Perhaps most importantly these markets provide Melbournian’s with an opportunity to escape. A chance to picture life outside of the city, if only for a moment, and a guilt free shopping experience.

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