Christmas is now just around the corner, which means we’re all thinking about one thing: what’s for lunch?
Relax, the Capital Region Farmers Market has you covered. Every Saturday, the Exhibition Park in Canberra comes alive with the hustle and bustle as rows upon rows of stalls groan under the weight of fresh food and produce from local businesses, growers and farmers.
Through December, the usual array will be complemented by all the essential ingredients for a traditional lunch. This includes smoked hams and venison, Christmas pudding, gingerbread cake, fruit mince tarts, and for an added fancy twist, cherry and pomegranate pork sausages and mocktails.
There is even something for the loyal pet, with both Teachers Pet and Farmhouse Pet Treats stocking Christmas Crackers for dogs.
Chocolate is for any time of year, but Jasper and Myrtle have moulded it in the form of Santa for added relevance. And yes, visitors will also be able to purchase a real Christmas tree from Santa’s Shaped Christmas Trees when the annual stall returns this Saturday (4 December).
Founded by the not-for-profit Rotary Club of Hall, the weekly market started selling roses from the Old Parliament House gardens in 2014. Since then, the markets have grown to become a lifeline for producers in the ACT and the surrounding region. Over 100 stalls regularly draw a crowd of 6000.
The produce originates from all over the Capital Region, which includes the Southern Tablelands, Hill Tops and Yass regions, Snowy Mountains, as well as the Riverina and South Coast. But then COVID-19 saw the border between the ACT and NSW slam shut, cutting off the supply chain.
Despite lower shopper numbers over the past months, stallholders were greatly supported by local shoppers. They’re overjoyed to be bouncing back now as crowds return to discover the new summer produce coming in and stock up for the holidays.
Hayley Abbot is a loyal stallholder at the Capital Region Farmers Market, bringing fresh seafood from Narooma.
“We have three family-owned fishing boats out at Narooma and we bring our fresh local seafood up to Canberra each week – everything from fish, prawns, lobsters which are just coming into season now, and also the famous Narooma oysters too.”
Narooma Seafood survived solely on the support of the locals over the course of the lockdown in NSW, but Hayley says it’s great to see a return to normal.
“We were lucky enough that we have some great staff who were able to continue to run our store when we weren’t there.”
They have now been back at the markets for the past couple of weeks, taking orders in the lead up to Christmas.
“The traditional things are always popular at this time of year – prawns, oysters, scallops, mussels – that sort of thing.”
Ken Harrison and his wife Tracey from Harrison & Sons Araluen are also market regulars, bringing fresh stone fruits from their 3000-plus trees in Araluen. The end of lockdown coincided with the beginning of the fruit season, so the timing couldn’t be more fortunate.
“We didn’t have anything to sell during the time we were locked out of the market, so that was a bonus,” Ken says. “A lot of the other growers and farmers couldn’t get it there and had to arrange independent transport and selling.”
The orchard has been in the family for four generations, even surviving the ravages of the Black Summer bushfires, but Tim describes this year as the wettest in 50 years which brings “a few challenges” of its own.
“Sunshine is your flavour, so the rain probably takes a little bit away from that, but not to that great of an extent. It’s been pretty good this year. We’ve just had to pick in the rain, getting very wet in the process.”
The Capital Region Farmers Market is open each Saturday from 7 am to 11:30 am. They finish for the year on 18 December. Access into the Market is via Old Wells Station Road into the car park. Pedestrians can enter via Gate 4 (at the Service Station entry).
For more information, visit Capital Region Farmers Market.