I used to think that visiting a farmers’ market meant travelling to a country town, or driving across the city to a hard-to-find spot on the city fringe. And since I don’t own a car, getting to a farmers’ market seemed more trouble then it was worth.
Then I learnt of the Melbourne Community Farmers’ Markets collective, which co-ordinates markets every week in various inner-city locations. Better still, they’re quite accessible by public transport.
So yesterday morning, I forgoed my usual Saturday morning sleep-in (if you consider getting up at 8am early) and made a trip to the Collingwood Children’s Farm’s market.
Set within the Collingwood Children’s Farm grounds in a large open space surrounded by tall gum trees and bushland, the market was a hive of activity when I arrived after 10 am. A large crowd was already there milling about the various stalls, each shopper clutching bags and baskets laden with produce. Families were out and about with their dogs, and the community market vibe was further amplified by a musician performing in the centre of the market.
I soon realised why I’d been advised to get to the market early – some of the fruit and vegetable stalls had already sold most of their produce. Note to self: get there earlier next time!
Besides the usual fruit, vegetables and nuts, there were stalls selling free-range meats, and artisanal products like bread and preserves. Most of the fruits and vegetables on sale looked fresh and vibrant, a welcome change from the near-dead produce the supermarkets like to pass off as ‘fresh food’.
While prices at the farmers’ market were slightly dearer than the regular markets, I noticed the produce was fresher and of better quality. Besides, it felt good to know that my purchases were supporting local growers, who are often forced to sell their produce to wholesalers for a pittance.
I found that most of the farmers there were extremely friendly and readily answered questions on how their produce was grown. I even got a brief history lesson on the bio-dynanic movement in Australia from a second-generation bio-dynamic farmer. Only a handful of stalls were certified organic or bio-dynamic, but the other growers I bought from assured me that they used minimal or no chemicals, which is the next best thing to me.
I also bought some bare-root fruit trees and berry canes from a heritage grower, who generously gave me some great landscaping advice. Thankfully the trees were easy to carry, but I definitely got some raised eyebrows boarding the train with 6-foot trees in one hand!
The market runs from 8am to 1pm, but by 12pm many of the stallholders were already packing up, yet another reason to get there early!
My visit to the farmers’ market felt leisurely and enjoyable compared to my usual dash-in-and-out supermarket trips. It was definitely a great way to start the weekend.