When it comes to efficient supermarket shopping and saving money, they say there are a few good rules to remember – take a shopping list, know where everything is in the store so you don’t get distracted and never go shopping while hungry as you’ll buy more than you need. However, you need to throw those rules away when shopping in a farmers market, because the ideal way to make the most of the experience and get the best of the seasonal produce available is to do the exact opposite!
When visiting your local farmers market – and I would urge you to do so, for a whole heap of reasons – the best plan of action is to firstly do a quick reconnoitering lap of all the stalls to work out what looks best on that particular day, whose prices you like and also to give you time to think about what you might make with the produce available. Once you’ve done your “reccy” it’s time to get out the purse and shopping bag and get serious. It’s also important to be realistic about how much to buy – there’s no point in buying a whole heap of magnificent fresh produce if you are not going to have the time or resources to cook it all up and store it before it spoils.
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Some trading associations would view with a degree of alarm the loss of two of their most successful business in the one week, but not so at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market. Last Sunday’s market saw the final day of market trading for two popular stalls – The Honey Lady and Enzo’s. Rather than causing concern, the occasional loss of stallholders from the familiar ranks of traders at Adelaide’s Farmers Market is seen as a mark of the success of the model. Farmers markets contribute in many ways to the life of a community. These include offering access to fresh, local seasonal produce, providing an essential second source of income for producers, offering a personal point of contact between consumers and growers within a local setting, thus enriching that community, but they also play a valuable, slightly less obvious role – that of incubating small businesses.
Anyone who has ever tried to operate a small business can attest to the labyrinth of issues which need to be addressed well before they even begin to think about ways to get the public to buy their product. A farmers market offers anyone with a local food product a nurturing and educational environment for dipping the entrepreneurial toes and a less confusing way to embark on a retail career – and one which has premises and a market ready and waiting for product. Many traders are happy to limit their retail experiences to this sphere, but for those who are keen to grow a business the experience, exposure and skills learned at a farmers market are invaluable.
This week I had a chat with Silvia Hart, The Honey Lady, late of the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market and now a happy member of the thriving retail community in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. Silvia’s experience is a classic example of the gains to be made from operating a stall at the farmers market. A few years back, after the demise of a relationship with a beekeeper, Silvia found herself with slightly more honey than she and her family could consume on their own – three 44 gallon drums of it to be exact. She decided to take a stand (initially) at the Willunga Farmers Market to dispose of her golden windfall nectar, augmenting it with some spices and chai tea. A friend spoke to her soon after, telling her of a dream she had experienced where she saw a hugely successful Silvia holding a jar of cinnamon honey, thus setting the wheels in motion for the glorious and popular range of spiced honeys now produced by the Honey Lady.
Silvia is in no doubt at all of the value of farmers market and the role her involvement with both the Willunga Farmers Market and the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market has played in placing her in her own business premises in Hahndorf. Her engagement with consumers in what she calls the “big tasting table”that is a farmers market enabled her to experiment with and develop every aspect of her product including taste, content, labeling and jar size. As she tweaked her product she was able to obtain instant feedback from her customers, with whom she also developed a personal relationship – not an experience available in any supermarket.
For Silvia, her weekly trips to her stall at the markets were so much more than a retail opportunity as she began to connect with her customers and their families. She gradually forged links with chefs who came through on their shopping trips, customers who came from food industry backgrounds and other like-minded folk – developing both personal and professional relationships with them and now likens her experiences in the market to “stepping into the village”.
As her product range has expanded, so has her customer base. She has developed a mail order list of interstate customers who first experienced her honey’s while here as tourists and sells to various stores whose own customers asked them to stock her product. One day, while delivering honey to Hahndorf, she saw a charming shop with a “For Lease” sign on it and before she knew it, her next step on the career path was taken.
Her historical stone store in the main street of Hahndorf stocks her stunning selection of honeys and a large range of organic, Fair-Trade spices. She has very cleverly taken what was a shabby back yard and turned it into a delightful outdoor cafe area where she serves vegetarian, gluten and dairy free meals and coffee and cake, using the cooking skills which she was able to enhance and hone at – you guessed it – the farmers markets.
As far as Silvia Hart is concerned – if food is the new religion, then the farmers market is her church.
The Honey Lady
79 Main Rd
Monday – Sunday 10-4
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I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I’m a bit of a slave to my sweet tooth and it’s no secret that I’ve also got a passion for local food and local food producers, so when I heard that the Adelaide Hills Farmers Market was holding a cake competition my attention was well and truly caught. The Adelaide Hills Farmers Market is a community event that is held every Saturday morning at 23 Mann St, Mt. Barker. It is a true farmers market with over 25 stalls which sell only authentic, regional, fresh and seasonal products. Like other farmers markets, it does not allow products which have been genetically modified, are out of season or have traveled significant “food miles” – although they have reached out to the Riverland producers who have been doing it pretty tough for a while now and allow a limited amount of Riverland fruit to be sold.
Last Saturday the Adelaide Hills Farmers Market held their inaugural cake competition, attracting the attention of many of the local home bakers and many more of the local cake eaters. The Competition was judged by Mt. Barker Mayor, Ann Ferguson, “Blue Ribbon Cookbook” author Liz Harfull & Rebecca Sullivan of Dirty Girl Kitchen who braved the winter chill of an Adelaide Hills morning and stoically faced up to a challenging – and eminently enviable – task. After munching their way through a large selection of beautifully presented cakes they retired to agonise over the choices, eventually announcing the winner as the splendid Rosemary and Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Infused Olive Oil Icing entered by Talinga Grove.
Talinga Grove is an award-winning family owned and run business who produce olive oil and olive products from olives grown on their property near Strathalbyn. Included in their product line-up is a beautiful range of olive oil-based skin care products, dukkah and some delightful infused olive oils, one of which is used in the icing of the winning cake. This cake looked so good I just had to ask the lovely folk at Talinga if they could see their way to sharing the recipe for this deliciously moist and fragrant cake- and here it is! The winner of the inaugural Adelaide Hills Farmers Market Cake Competition uses (naturally) Talinga oils in the recipe. They can be purchased at the farmers market at Mt. Barker on Saturday mornings, at the farm store and a selection of retail stores listed here.
- 4 free-range eggs
- ¾ Cup caster sugar
- ⅔ Cup Talinga Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbs. fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
- 1½ Cup SR flour
- ½ tsp. Murray River pink salt
- Finely grated rind of one lemon
- Preheat oven to 160 C
- Brush a loaf pan with olive oil.
- Beat eggs for 30 seconds in electric mixer. Add sugar and beat until mixture is foamy and pale in colour.
- While the mixer is still running, slowly add the olive oil.
- Stir the rosemary and lemon rind into the mixture.
- Sift into a separate bowl the flour & stir through the salt.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients.
- Pour batter into oiled pan.
- Bake for approx. 50 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
- Allow to cool in the pan briefly, then cool on a rack.
- When cool, mix icing sugar with equal parts butter and Talinga Grove Lemon Infused Olive Oil to form a soft icing.
All images kindly supplied by Adelaide Hills Farmers Market.
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I know many of my readers are very interested in food production methods, future food security and finding out ways that they can encourage fresh produce diversity, support local producers and retain some control over their food choices. There are lots of everyday ways that the average consumer can help control their food choices and these include growing at least some of their own fresh food, shopping at farmers markets and supporting smaller, local food producers, suppliers and retailers, rather than the huge supermarket food chains. Obviously, these retail choices are going to vary depending upon where you live, but I just wanted to focus on two quite significant sources of produce here in Adelaide who, between the two of them, offer residents and visitors an extraordinary range of local and imported fresh food products while at the same time supporting small local businesses.
The Adelaide Central Market, in the centre of Adelaide, has been the heart of fresh food supply for the city and suburbs for the last 140 years. From humble beginnings in 1869, when a small group of market gardeners gathered together to sell their produce to the public it has now grown to a vibrant, culturally diverse group of over 80 stall-holders housed behind the historic facade which borders Gouger Street on the southern side and Grote Street on the northern side.
Most (but not all) of the market gardeners have long gone but, in their place, are family held stalls, some of whom have been nurturing relationships with both their growers and their retail customers for generations. Over the years the genre of some of the stalls has evolved and changed and the market as we know it today is a vibrant community of traders, artisans and shoppers, all of whom share a passion for food. Adelaide Central Market is the place to find all manner of fresh fruit and vegetables, local and imported meats and smallgoods, an obscure ingredient for your multicultural cuisine, the very best of Australian seafood, imported coffees and teas, exclusive and unique imported cheeses for a special dinner party or simply an exciting, buzzing atmosphere to do your fresh-food shopping. A trip to the market is a long-standing tradition in many families and many stall-holders watch their customers grow up from infants to adults, checking on them periodically during school holidays, as my children can attest. Once the shopping work is done, it offers plenty of traditional or funky cafés where you can grab a coffee or a meal and sit back and relax while watching the world go by. In short, it is an exceptional and vital piece of the culinary heritage of Adelaide and simply a gastronome’s delight.
A more recent, and every bit as significant, fresh food supplier has also taken root and gradually spread it’s branches in the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Showgrounds. I last wrote about the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market back in October of last year when it was celebrating it’s 5th birthday and it continues to grow from strength to strength. Farmers markets continue to grow in popularity, popping up in carparks and open spaces in cities and towns, big and small, all over the world. Selling fresh produce, dairy products, meat, local seafoods and smallgoods as well as artisan food products, the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market offers farmers and small producers the opportunity to sell direct to the public in a low-cost, secure alternative to restrictive and limiting contracts with large wholesalers or the uncertain patronage and returns of farm-gate sales. Because a farmers market allows the growers to get to know their customers and their needs, many producers are encouraged into planting smaller, more diverse, organic and/or heritage crops which they might otherwise have difficulty producing in wholesale marketable amounts.
The gains for consumers are equally as important, providing them with a direct link to the source of their food choices, returning a sense of seasonality to their tables as the produce is all sourced and grown locally and maximising the nutritional content of the food as it hasn’t been transported for long distances to get to the market. The consumers have the opportunity to develop relationships with the growers, developing an understanding of the vagaries food production and sharing in the seasonal riches. Further, the money they spend on their weekly fresh food shopping stays within and enriches the local community, rather than going into the pockets of international supermarket chain owners and off-shore shareholders. The Adelaide Showgound Farmers Market is a community owned and operated organisation which promotes the practice of sustainable food production and the produce of South Australia and, like it’s more mature colleague, is an essential and dynamic ingredient in the comestible character of Adelaide.
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I still think the plan was a good one. We were to catch the 10.00 am train from Seattle and ride in comfortable sleeper rooms all the way down the US west coast, admiring the scenery and arriving refreshed and energised in San Francisco 22 hours later. Sounds good – right? Sadly the travel gods had other plans for us. Firstly, an unfortunate rockfall on the train tracks up the line from Seattle caused the train to be very late in and subsequently even later to leave and it was well on the way to 1.00pm before the train pulled out of the station. The weather was still quite bad so our views were restricted to similar bleak and grey images as the above, but only for a few hours as it darkened very quickly and I suspect most of the interesting scenery was passed after nightfall. Due to my unclear correspondence with my travel agent, the comfy sleeper rooms with our own bathroom turned out to be ‘roomettes’ – seats in tiny boxes that become bunks in the evening, with the use of shared facilities – a situation not appreciated by my two
princesses daughters. And, while the first impressions of the stylish dining car were good, there was no follow-through at all in that department and the food was simply atrocious. Amtrak should be very proud of it’s staff who were unfailingly cheerful, helpful and polite, but they seriously need to lift their game at the food end of things.
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As the year draws to a close and the weather warms up, here in South Australia thoughts will be turning to planning our summer holidays. For many of you I know that will mean a trip up the river for a break, either in a shack or in a houseboat with lots of long, languid days mucking about with boats, friends and barbecues, but I wonder how many of you realise what a great foodie destination the Riverland has become? All of the producers along the River Murray in Australia struggled during our recent, very long, drought but the growers at the bottom end of the river really have done it the toughest with drastically reduced water allocations and problems with the growing salinity in the river affecting their crops. The benefits that were brought by the increased flows in the river when the drought broke were then undermined by the incredibly strong Australian dollar resulting, for most of the citrus growers, in a bumper crop that they subsequently had trouble exporting. The impact this has had on the regional towns cannot be underestimated, but then neither can the tenacity and versatility of rural Australians and we have seen them take on these challenges in any number of impressive ways. Let me introduce you to a few of the newer reasons you might want to take a trip up the river.