A Food & Travel Blog

Adelaide Showground Farmers Market & Adelaide Central Market – what’s the difference?

05/03/2012 | By

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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  1. The Food Sage

    Hi Amanda – a lovely write-up, thanks. I always make a beeline for the Central Market when i visit Adelaide. I’ve been found – when i’m there on an official work trip – rummaging around in my high heels and suit! Never one to let an opportunity to shop at this wonderful market pass me by. I haven’t made it to the farmers market at the show ground. The timing has never been right. Must be time for another visit, soon!

  2. Amanda

    Rachel – would love to see you here! I’m sure we would find loads to do, see & talk about.

  3. Renae

    I really, really want to like the Farmers Market, but I have to admit I have a hard time getting excited about going there. Every once in a while I’ll pop in to buy a few things, but I’m generally in and out as quickly as possible. I love buying direct from the grower, but I find the whole experience too stressful. Maybe almost being run over by prams on too many occasions has put a dampener on it for me! On the other hand I do love the Willunga Market – the atmosphere there is so much more relaxed. Too bad it’s a little too far away. For now I’ll just stick with my weekly (stress-free) visits to the Central Market.

  4. Charlotte

    What a lovely market, Amanda! I can spend hours looking around at places like this and find them particularly interesting when abroad – forget sightseeing – I want to go food shopping!


  5. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    I am jealous from afar. From VERY afar. Even in a city as big as Denver, we are served by private enterprises that charge an arm and a leg for farmers to rent a booth so most often those booths are filled with purveyors of chichi specialty items and the only way to get farm fresh goods are to buy shares in a co-op. Few have small enough shares for just one so I’m stuck with hunting down trailers on the side of a street corner! Would probably be easy to fly to Adelaide.

    Nice article Amanda.

  6. Barbara

    I look forward to visiting the Adelaide Market someday. It sounds like a great place.

  7. Hotly Spiced

    Oh! That sounds so good. I’ll have to visit when I’m in Adelaide. How fantastic for the residents of Adelaide to have access to such great produce.

  8. grant nowell

    Hi Amanda
    Excellent couple of yarns about our fantastic fresh food places in Adelaide. I visit the Showgrounds Farmwers Market and the Central market all the time, they are great places to buy the trusted items you love. Also I am always finding things that I havent seen before…could be some new type of ham spek or like today I bought some little orange colored fruits called Achacha…a tropical fruit that is from the Amazon but now grown in NT.
    We will never have these experiences at Coles or Woolwoths
    cheers grant

  9. grant nowell

    sorry about the typos…that was meant to read speck, not spek and farmers not farmwers! I have fingers like spizy chorizo sausages, speaking of which there are some wonderful gluten free chorizo at Barossa Fine Foods at the central market. They are very handy things, i use them in pasta, soups and almost everything that need that type of lift.

  10. Jennifer (Delicieux)

    Every time we’ve gone to Adelaiade we’ve planned to go to the Central Market but the timing has never been right. It’s definitely on our to do list next time.

    I love the farmers markets here in Brisbane. I always go with plans to buy a few bits and pieces and come home with armfuls of delicious produce because everything looks so good. It’s really great to be able to talk to the producers face to face. My favourite farmers markets in Brisbane are the Jan Powers markets at the Powerhouse. If you are ever in Brisbane they are definitely worth a visit.

  11. InTolerant Chef

    I l love going to markets and meeting the producers is always a bonus. They love to share their knowledge and passion with the customers- its contagious!

  12. Lizzy (Good Things)

    Amanda, you and I are such kindred spirits! You know my fondness for fresh produce and markets. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Central Market and had the great pleasure of taking Peter on a tour there last year when we passed through! Oh, if only Canberra had such a place. We have our Capital Region Farmer’s Market, which is truly wonderful… but our retail food markets, including the one I managed for a decade, are smaller and more like small shopping centres than say Central Market or QVM. Great post! Love your passion for promoting SA and its food.

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