- Farmers’ markets can give you great seasonal fresh produce, with the opportunity to connect with the people who grew it.
- Not all food markets are farmers’ markets: there are clear criteria for best practice.
- Markets aren’t all created equal. Just because they have tents, trestles and fresh produce doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being offered anything different from your local mall.
A local market is a great way to spend a leisurely weekend morning browsing for fresh produce and gourmet goodies, and a farmers’ market sounds doubly appealing — a real connection to where the food comes from and how it’s produced. But how sure are you that farmers and producers are the ones getting your custom?
In this report we take a look at what kind of farmers' markets are available, how they operate, and what constitutes best practice. We also give a list of the Pick of the crop - markets which the Australian Farmers' Market Association (AFMA) consider to be best practice.
Please note: this information was current as of February 2008 but is still a useful guide today.
What is a farmers’ market?
There’s no legislation defining farmers' markets in Australia — each market has its own charter which sets out what the market allows and doesn’t. But AFMA has developed best-practice criteria for authentic farmers' markets (see Best practice guidelines).
A farmers’ market brings farmers and producers directly to shoppers, cutting out the middlemen. The person selling at the market should have a direct link with the farm — either the farmer, a family member or someone who works on the farm. As a consumer, you get to buy produce that’s often only picked hours before, and a direct link to where and how it was grown.
Farmers’ markets also promote more unusual produce such as varieties that might not be widely available in supermarkets and value-added products (like jams or pies made from farm produce) from small traditional-style suppliers that you won’t easily find elsewhere.
So as well as spending a pleasant time browsing and shopping at a market, a farmers’ market means you’re getting a very different experience from shopping at your local shopping mall.
Benefits to growers
You’re not alone if you’re becoming increasingly interested in the welfare of farmers and the long-term viability of Australian farms in the face of drought and globalisation. A well-run farmers’ market can give farmers direct access to consumers who’ll pay a fair price for their produce – it won’t necessarily be cheaper than elsewhere.
It also lets them hear directly from consumers about what’s important to them and what they value about the produce they buy. For many small farmers, their success at a big city farmers’ market has spelt the difference between a viable farming business and oblivion.
And for larger-scale farmers, a regional farmers’ market is a way to supplement other income, as well as an important business and community networking opportunity.