A couple of posts ago I had a little chat about Oxfam‘s new global food campaign “GROW” which aims for a world in which “everyone, everywhere has enough to eat, always”. Their comprehensive report very clearly sets out the issues and also offers suggestions for ways in which individuals and governments can work towards the goal of food security for everyone. This is a daunting issue and can be overwhelming, but the solutions are right in front of us and some of us may not even be aware that we are already making choices which are part of the solution. If we wish to act to help solve this food dilemma, Oxfam suggests that we become informed and learn more about the issue and that we make the effort to choose food for ourselves and our families which is produced fairly and sustainably – and if you are one of the growing number of consumers who are shopping in a farmers market, that is exactly what you are doing! Here in Adelaide our state farmers market, the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market (ASFM), has just turned five and I figured this was an ideal time to take a look at just what this very successful example of the genre is contibruting to consumers and growers.
The ASFM was founded by the remarkable Zannie Flanagan who is no stranger to regional food producers in this state, having run two very successful restaurants and being the founder of the popular Willunga Farmers Market. Like the Willunga Farmers Market, the ASFM is self funded, using the income from the membership fees to sustain itself and provide both a stable point of sale for small producers and a reliable source of fresh, regional, seasonal produce for Adelaide consumers.
It is not news to most of us that farming is an unpredictable business. Weather conditions and price fluctuations of the various crops (often driven by the large supermarket chains) makes it very difficult for producers to predict if they are likely to remain viable from one season to the next. A farmers market provides a secure, low-cost alternative to the farm-gate for many producers who are then able to sell at retail price direct to the consumer, cutting out the middle-man and enabling many to stay in a business they otherwise might have to forsake for financial reasons. Over the five years that ASFM has been running the stallholder numbers have gradually increased from approximately 60 at the beginning to over 90 stalls today. A great many of these stallholders have actually increased their landholdings and crop production as demand for their products increases as a direct result of their involvement with the market . This gives producers the option to grow their business or not – as was the case for Bushman Farmed Rabbits who found such a demand for their product that they now longer have the time to attend the market!
The consumer benefits of a farmers market can seriously never be underestimated. Consumers are able to purchase fresh, ripe, local produce that has not had the nutrient levels compromised through long transport times, thus reducing their carbon footprint. They can get to know the producer, ask questions about the produce, become accustomed to what might occasionally be unfamiliar products, find new ways to prepare them and come to understand the differences in seasonal products. Farmers market customers become educated about seasons and climates and learn more about their food and their nutrition while building a community and developing relationships between city dwellers and country residents. ASFM also includes weekly chef demonstrations and an enormously successful “Kids Club” which is educating the next generation in the benefits of fresh, local and seasonal food and teaching children valuable kitchen skills to set them on the road to feeding themselves properly.
The ASFM (and Willunga Farmers Market) model is unusual in that it is largely self-funded and because of this their memberships are vital. The small income from these and the stall-holders fees is all that the market has to run on to provide the staff and facilities. Memberships also serve an important function in that they provide an ongoing indication of committed patronage for the producers to base their own projections on. To celebrate their 5th birthday, ASFM is offering a special on membership for the month of October. For a mere $62 you can become a part of this important food movement and exercise voting rights at the AGM, become subscribed to the monthly digest with recipes and information about seasonal products and producers and, best of all, take advantage of the 10% discount enjoyed by members!
For full details on memberships and the October birthday special click here.
Many thanks to Joel C Photography for the use of his photos. You can check out more about them at http://joelc.com.au/[mc4wp_form id="16750"]