Guess what, westies? We have a new farmers' market, and this one has a seriously impressive family tree. It's the new sibling of the venerable Saturday circuit of farmers' markets at Collingwood Children's Farm, Abbotsford Convent, St Kilda's Veg Out and Gasworks. Its first outing was two weekends ago and I popped down to wet the baby's head...
...with a coffee, of course! Brews were served off this back of this gorgeous blue ute and were by Collingwood's Farm Cafe.
Now that I've had my coffee - some backstory. Before coming down this day, I had a talk to Miranda Sharp, who established the Collingwood Children's Farm market in 2002, and is part of not-for-profit company Melbourne Farmers Markets who run the above-mentioned markets. We talked about what prompted this move west. Miranda said that instead of having a small number of really big markets, her goal is to have more smaller, neighbourly markets, more often.
Miranda is a straight shooter and she has a clear vision for "her" markets. They're not meant to be "foodie, winey, wanky bloody events," she says, but rather, they aim to address issues of food distribution in Australia.
Andrew of Rayner Stone Fruit
Miranda started as a caterer and chef but became frustrated that it was so hard for one small business to buy from another. There's no middleman at a farmers' market (or as Miranda puts it, a "guy in a shiny suit with a clipboard"), so you are buying direct from the producer.
I met Lisa of Spring Creek Organics who has a rigorous schedule of farmers' markets at which she sells her certified organic seasonal produce. She told me that her family have just recently been able to stop selling to the wholesale fruit and vegie market and sell exclusively at farmers' markets. According to Lisa, the wholesale price hasn't just stayed the same for the past 10 years they have been selling - it's gone backwards.
But hey, enough serious stuff. Let's go geek out over all the yum on offer!
This is Louisa, one half of Shuki and Louisa, who make the fantastic dips above. The chickpeas in the hummus are actually grown by her dad up in the Mallee. Their dips are brilliant, especially the super-smoky baba ghanoush and the silky hummus.
It was also awesome to run into Dr Marty himself, who makes his own crumpets with organic flour. Crumpets are a comfort food of mine from way back, but the preservatives in good ole Golden brand don't make me feel so warm and snuggly. It is awesome to find a crumpet alternative made with so much love, and that is so deliciously squishy!
Another thing I've been searching for for ages - unsalted pistachios. I love these because you actually have to expend some sort of energy to eat them, rather than just funnelling them into your gob. Without the salt, you can taste so much more sweet crunch.
Freshly cracked Victorian walnuts from St James Walnuts. This is James of St James, although I'm assured the farm was already called that before he came along!
I snapped up some bacon from Jason at McIvor Farms, who farms old-breed Berkshire piggies. This is real free-range pork, not outdoor bred - see Tammi Jonas of Jonai Farms' list here for real free range farms, which includes McIvor.
Plus, I had a great chinwag with Cliff from Spice Crate Foods and got some southern American spice blends, like a Creole-style rub for blackened fish and a herbaceous Cajun mix for dirty rice.
This is a lovely little market. My criticism would be that at Collingwood and Gasworks, there is lots of green space to go and loll about with your bacon n' egg sarnie. Newport is in a carpark near the train line, so there isn't that same bucolic feel. But it's not meant to be all about a nice day out - the idea is that locals can come and get their regular shopping here, rail, hail or shine.
Here's my haul! I loved the veg from Spring Creek. I am 100% not kidding when I tell you that when I took my spinach out to wash it about three days after buying it, there was a ladybird still alive among the leaves. I also managed to eat half of that whole delicious, creamy cauliflower on my own last night. (Yes, it was covered in cheese sauce, but still - veg is veg!)
Above all, Melbourne Farmers Markets are committed to a market or even markets in the west. Newport runs on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month (including this one!) and they are considering other sites for the 2nd and 4th. So if you are a local primary school or community centre in, say, Footscray (ahem, not that that would suit me to a tee, or anything) - I reckon you should put your hat in the ring!