There are as many quality Farmers’ Markets in Australia as there are seeds in a watermelon. Perhaps even more. Natalie Talisman looks at the best of the best in fresh produce from all corners of the country.
If you love your food, farmers’ markets are the place to be to gorge your senses on a plethora of freshly grown produce. They showcase an enormous array of foods just right for the picking, dicing, slicing or whatever you fancy doing with the contents of the canvas bags you’re sure to fill.
Shopping at farmers’ markets is all about intimacy and personal service: the people selling to you are the very ones who grow the produce, and because they’re setting up their own stalls and cutting out the middle man, you can be sure you’re getting the best price. Should you find yourself with an assortment of goodies and no idea what to do with them (apart from the obvious temptation of eating everything in one sitting), many of Australia’s best markets even have cooking demos and recipe ideas to excite your inner chef.
All the experts tell us that the best cooking and eating experiences you can have begin with fresh ingredients. And while there are hundreds of farmers’ markets in Australia, here’s a helping hand to get you started.
New South Wales
On the first Saturday of every month, get yourself to The Good Living Growers’ Markets in Sydney. Sponsored by The Sydney Morning Herald, this market started in 1999 and now boasts more than 85 stalls. Wander around Pyrmont Point Park in search of the smelliest cheese, meatiest pies, stickiest jams, strongest coffee and tangiest fruits. The flag drops at 7am and continues through the morning until 11am.
Of the 80 stalls at the Rapid Creek Markets in Darwin, 60 showcase foods of the freshest standards. Alongside the seafood and the organic produce you’ll find the finest array of lemongrass, coriander, bok choy, exotic fruits and other Asian ingredients. Darwin’s oldest market is 20min from the heart of the city from 3pm-9pm every Friday and 6:30am-1:00pm every Sunday, year-round, at Rapid Creek Business Village. For more info, call 0419 834 486 to speak to a market coordinator.
The Margaret River Farmers’ Markets in Western Australia take place on the fourth Saturday of every month from September through May. Get there at 9am for a delicious breakfast, be there for 11am for the raffling off of a gigantic hamper and finish at 1pm with some wine-tasting. In between all that, indulge in award-winning olive oils, honey, cheese, meats, cookies, jams, marmalade and more. The markets are set on an historic old hospital site on the corner of Tunbridge and Farrelly Streets. And if you happen to be in the area in the wrong month, a mapped-out food and wine trail means you can hunt for your favourite delicacies any time of year. The trail leads you through the Margaret River region to the sites where the products usually involved in the markets are grown, harvested and nurtured. More info on (08) 9755 8788.
With a backdrop of stables, chooks and lambs you can enjoy the delights of the CERES Organic Market in Brunswick, Melbourne, every Saturday and Wednesday morning from 9am-1pm. CERES stands for the Centre of Education & Research in Environmental Strategies, and it just so happens that CERES is also the name of the Roman goddess of agriculture. Here in this bustling community atmosphere you can taste the delicacies of locally grown produce, including sourdough bread, organic fruit and vegies and even the famous CERES muffin. CERES also runs the Urban Orchard Project, which aims to reduce excess waste from backyard trees and plants by selling and swapping the fruit with other tradesmen. For more info, contact Brad Shone on (03) 9387 2609, or else see you at 8 Lee St, East Brunswick.
Hobart hosts the Salamanca Market in Salamanca Place, and has done every Saturday for more than 30 years. As you wonder past the 19th Century sandstone plaza you’re sure to find some fabulously fresh produce, as well as some serious bargains on delicious fruit and vegetables, bush honey, jams and more. The market commences at 8:30am and doesn’t close until 3pm, giving you ample time to sample everything this history-laden precinct has to offer, including “Kelly’s Steps”, which were built in 1838 by the intrepid adventurer James Kelly. More info on (03) 6238 2843.
If you find filling the daily dose of two-fruit-and-five-veg a chore, check out the monthly lists of harvesting yield on the Barossa Farmers’ Market website (www.barossafarmersmarket.com.au). Be inspired to eat more creatively and try crops you’ve never heard of before. But don’t be fooled into thinking farmers’ markets are all about fruit and veg; the Barossa Farmers’ Markets claim to cook the best bacon and egg brekkie around. Now if that isn’t a reason to get down to the Corner of Nurioopta and Stockwell Rds in Angaston every Saturday morning from 7:30-11:30, then I don’t know what is (0402 026 882, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jan Power’s mission, when establishing her eponymous Farmers Markets throughout the suburbs of Brisbane, was to create a market that supported and nurtured local traders. The result of her encouragement is a series of markets that attract patrons and purveyors from all across the spectrum. “It’s a feel-good, grass roots experience with a social and community slant and a lot of fun,” says Jan on her website, www.janpower.com. Anyone who has fresh and tasty produce to sell, in the postcode the market is taking place in, is welcome to contribute, which, if weather allows, displays around 120 stalls. Jan runs her markets at a few sites, so get online and find out which one’s closest to you.
Australian Capital Territory
The newly named Capital Region Farmers’ Market is a community project of The Rotary Club of Hall, and conditions for stallholders suggest you’ll receive only the highest quality goods as you browse the stalls in the Kuringai Building in Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC), between 8.00 and 11.00 on Saturday mornings. Starting with only 18 stalls three years ago, you can now experience the delights of more than 100 offering pates, peaches, potatoes, plants and plenty more. Contact Rob Durie at email@example.com for more info.
Top 5 tips on Farmer’s Market shopping
1. The early bird catches the worm, cheese, mushrooms, pâté, cake – you name it. However . . .
2. … if you’re a frugal shopper hunting endlessly for a bargain, wait until nearer closing time. Farmers are more likely to sell their goods now while they’re fresh, rather than pack them up and cart them home again.
3. If you’re shopping on a tight budget, write a list and stick to it, or you’ll find your larder bursting at the seams (as opposed to your purse).
4. Check out the Guide to Farmers Markets in Australia and New Zealand. It’s available from all good bookstores for $20.
5. Never, ever, ever go farmers’ market shopping on an empty stomach.