Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Substation farmers' market, from the makers of Collingwood and Slow Food


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.


Or at least, ideally, you should be.  Some farmers markets may allow resellers and wholesalers.  The best way to avoid this is to choose a Victorian Farmers Markets Association-accredited farmers market.  This accreditation means that over 90% of stallholders are accredited with the VFMA, which involves them proving that they really do grow or make what they sell.  The two in the west that are fully accredited are Flemington farmers' market, and now Newport.


I still have not been to Flemington, but I have been to the market out of which that one grew, at the Showgrounds.  I still remember a comment on my post about that back in 2010 in which "Organic Pat" wrote:


This has stayed with me, and since then I've wondered if farmers' markets are (pardon the frankness) just a big middle class wank with the farmers getting screwed either way.  I put this to Miranda, and she replied that farmers' markets are not all things for all people.  "But for the people it works for - that's all we can ask for," she said.  If you need to move a certain amount of potatoes per week, standing in the rain, hail or shine might not be the best way for you, but farmers' markets really do work for some small business owners.


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!


  1. WOW! Thanks so much Lauren, you have captured the market and its message so strongly. I'm really proud.
    We hope all the rest of the West agrees and we look forward to bringing your 'hood a cracking local FM for a long time to come. The success relies on the community wanting it so please make local food your resolution for 2014 and come along on the 1st and 3rd Sundays every month, whatever the forecast!
    Don't forget tho, we won't be there on 5th January as we're all having a little lie down!
    For more info: to find out more or to receive our newsletter, phone 9419 0826 and follow us on facebook and twitter

    Cheers and thanks for such a fab welcome to the West, see you THIS Sunday, Miranda

    1. Ha! I need a "little lie down" today, Miranda! Hope it's a lovely sunny Sunday.

  2. I know of a Willy business that is mightily perturbed by having not just one but two regular farmers' markets in her backyard. She has point. At the least, it's an issue worth discussing.

  3. And I'm guessing the general view may be ... a mixture of both is possible and dedirable.

    1. Weeeelllll... That's just business, I think! Same with cafe owners getting perturbed another coffee shop opens down the road. You can get shirty about competition, but that's been something business owners have had to deal with for - I'm guessing - literally thousands of years!

      We were talking about this offline and you said this business owner's offerings are very similar to what's at the market. As I said above, the bonus of the market is you buy direct from the producer and there's no middleman (except for Melbourne Farmers Markets, I suppose, but for all my research they are a not-for-profit company who are quite ethical and transparent in their dealings with everybody concerned). You said it's not ALWAYS the producer and there are resellers. That is why I would personally only shop at accredited markets like the above or Flemington. One story I have - and it's just one story - is when a friend from Kyneton came down, walked through one existing local farmers' market and commented that there were quite a few people there who had been rejected from her local, accredited market.

      The plus for the business owner concerned is a lot more people coming to the suburb who might see her shop and come back that day or another day. I guess on the day the Collingwood Children's Farm farmers' market is on, they only get the $2 entry fee and not the otherwise higher farm entry fee (something like six bucks a person, maybe). Obviously no-one can stop the market shoppers going and checking out the farm on their $2 entry. But it obviously works for the Children's Farm - more bums through the door, who will hopefully come back another day.

    2. Bums through the door. That sounded weird. I'm picturing hoards of disembodied bums roaming the goat paddock!

  4. Great post- can't wait to go and have a look at this market, it looks delicious!

    1. Excellent! On Twitter just now they have said that the Lakes Entrance fishermen's co-op is coming to sell locally-caught Lakes Entrance fish!

  5. Having Two farmers markets on the same day and the same locality is better than One! You both benefit from each others advertising and people are attracted by the range of choices Two co located markets produce. This is why in old cities, the jewellers are clustered with other jewellers, leather goods with others, etc. etc. The best place to put a business is next to another of the same - you both benefit from increased trade!

  6. Hi anonymous! There may be something in that, but in the case of this business, the markets are in the same general neighbourhood but not close by, let alone within visual cooee. Her main beef is that she and her nearby bricks-and-mortar neighbours pay rates.

  7. Beautiful photos, looks like you had a lovely day out.
    You are very lucky in the inner west to be spoiled for choice :) Those of us in the outer west still have a little journey to make to make it to these markets. I can either go inwards or drive 45 mins to Ballan farmer's market.
    Unfortunately on my budget, shopping at a farmer's market is a treat. That said I am keen to make the journey and explore the market in the near future :)

    1. I have to say, Sylvia, I manage to spend the most ridiculous amounts of money at farmers' markets. Maybe if I shopped at one regularly, it would even itself out!

  8. where is that market? I'd love to visit as I love visiting markets.

    xo Newintstudents blog


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