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.