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The fascination of the Capital Region Farmers Market

By Paul Costigan - 9 December 2015 9

stalls-markets2 It has now become a habit for thousands of Canberrans to jump into their cars on Saturday morning and to drive to North Canberra and to make their way to a very special local retail event. According to those who run this market, the Rotary Club of Hall, about 6,000 people show up each Saturday.

I have witnessed the Capital Region Farmers Market grow over the years, although I have to admit I have only seen the later hours of the operation on Saturday morning — I usually arrive around 10/10.30 (the markets close at 11.30).

Apparently there are those who get there early after it opens at 7.30 and occasionally I see stalls with the sign proudly boasting – ‘sorry, all sold out’.

Others use the event for social reasons, in that they line up for coffees and food and sit around to chat. For me, it is usually about a 30 minute walk around to load up with a range of goodies, and then out of there.

stalls-markets3

stalls-markets1

The Capital Region Farmers Market is not your usual market. Most markets offer clothes, craft object and antiques. This Canberra market purposely precludes such stalls. These markets are staged very purposefully to favour local producers and their produce.

The world is currently besieged by big retailers who set up big boxes on the edges of cities. People are then encouraged to drive out to these box retailers and to park their cars in the vast car parks. The consequence of these big boxes is that they pull shoppers away from local shops and small retailers.

Given its structure whereby the landlord provides the roof and the space for retailers to set up, it has occurred to me that the Capital Region Farmers Market is another form of big box retailing. In this case the box is a large shed in a paddock. The big box retailers have huge parking lots. These Canberra markets have available to them a huge amount of parking and much of it is taken up each Saturday. People rarely walk to big box retailers and likewise only a few locals walk to these markets from nearby Watson or maybe Downer.

But there I think the similarities end.

I suggest most people going to the Capital Region Farmers Market appreciate that the retailers they are dealing with are the producers of the goods for sale. In most cases they are happy to discuss their produce.

The farmers involved are receiving the full payment for their work, not a minimum price negotiated to favour the large corporation’s share price. That is, the money is going into their hands not off to some large national or international corporation.

I suspect that people enjoy the experience of walking down rows of stalls and taking in the varied offerings arranged to entice your money from your purse. I imagine that people enjoy the absence of special lights, shiny floors, background music and the usual slick advertising banners with their spin. I am sure they do not miss making their way down small aisles and having to encounter packers blocking the way with pallets of goods.

The markets are crowded but in a friendly way. People seem to be comfortable making their way around and having to constantly maneuver their way around other groups, children, bags and various other obstacles.

It is usual for markets to be staged in high streets, in local parks, or in venues such as showground buildings situated close enough to the centre of town. But here in the nation’s capital it is a shed in a paddock that for most means getting there by car and in some cases via some quite dodgy roads.

If a room full of Canberra planners were to have considered where such a market should be located, I suspect their choice would not have been a site just north of the showgrounds and situated well away from any shopping centres.

entrance-markets

parking-markets

People seem to have accepted that it is OK to drive from their homes to the edge of Canberra, to make their way into these vast car parks devoid of the usual bitumen and signage etc, to wander over open spaces to a large shed despite any bad weather and to shop for local food in a very informal environment. No air conditioning here!

These markets definitely do not have the feel of being designed by a planning bureaucracy or by a big corporation. The Capital Region Farmers Market is the result of a bright idea from within the Rotary Club of Hall. And what a good idea it was!

That shed has a welcoming atmosphere and it seems that people of all ages and groupings have made it a regular Saturday morning happening.

Here’s the official reasons for these markets:

  • Provide customers with a diverse range of fresh farm and food produce straight from the producer to the consumer, and an opportunity to discuss with growers and learn through weekly forays.
  • Build local agri-business opportunities for regional producers to sell fresh farm and food produce.
  • Provide a community dividend in the region – funds generated from the Market are fed back into regional communities and other projects chosen by the Rotary Club of Hall.

The Rotary Club of Hall is doing a great job.

And – one last thing – here’s their Christmas trading notice.

What’s Your opinion?


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9 Responses to
The fascination of the Capital Region Farmers Market
dtc 4:33 pm 14 Dec 15

I think people underestimate the distance travelled by their food as a supermarket. For example, the vast majority of fruit is sent to the Sydney wholesale markets or to centralised corporate warehouses (eg for Woolies or Coles), then trucked from there to the stores (including Fyshwick/Belco markets).

However, even with all of that taken into account, growing food in the most efficient place (water wise, energy efficient, fertiliser etc etc) is far better than growing locally but inefficiently (eg using greenhouses or growing rice in Australia through irrigation). Freight emissions are only a fraction of the energy used during production.

Even growing your own isn’t always the best – you travel to a nursery to buy the produce, then you go to a shop to buy fertiliser from SA, then sugar cane mulch transported from Qld, then you have to water more often than a larger farm, snail baits, then covering the vegies with netting from China to prevent the possums getting to it, maybe some soil from wherever then pesticides …. (I’m well aware that there are ways to minimise most of the examples I have provided, but the average person doesn’t do them or all of them)

One main benefit of buying local is that the product is usually pretty fresh – picked recently, not stored for months etc – and so last longer. So less waste, which is a good outcome. Also, it tastes better so you probably eat it.

There is no right answer or, at least, there is no single answer that covers all food. Other than ‘buy the food that you like, and eat it’.

Maya123 1:37 pm 14 Dec 15

Ezy said :

“If enough people did this, supermarket buying habits would change. Unfortunately most people don’t give a da…” Exactly! We are on the same page here.

I just don’t think as an individual, and a community, the impact of driving to the farmers markets is greater than shopping at the supermarkets. Yes – I realise that many people are driving to the markets but as an alternative – these people could be driving to the supermarkets more than once a week. Then you cover off where the produce that is stocked in the supermarkets is coming from. Overseas, yes. Australia? yes. From within the region of the supermarket? I doubt it. So the food has traveled more distance over the course of it’s life to get on the shelf than that which is displayed out at the markets. It seems like a no brainer to me.

I am always pleased and amazed what I can find that is local (ish) grown and produced produce for sale in supermarkets, but it’s usually the local suburban ones, rather than the big Coles and Woolworths…and if you think they are bad, check out Aldi, Costco and the like. From my local IGA I can buy local honey from the region, washing liquid from Canberra, etc. I can also buy Australian coffee (that can’t be local, because it won’t grow here). And this in possible walking distance, rather than two bus rides or a car trip to the farmer’s market. It seems like a no brainer to me to shop as locally as possible, and that includes one’s own personal journey.

Ezy 12:39 pm 14 Dec 15

“If enough people did this, supermarket buying habits would change. Unfortunately most people don’t give a da…” Exactly! We are on the same page here.

I just don’t think as an individual, and a community, the impact of driving to the farmers markets is greater than shopping at the supermarkets. Yes – I realise that many people are driving to the markets but as an alternative – these people could be driving to the supermarkets more than once a week. Then you cover off where the produce that is stocked in the supermarkets is coming from. Overseas, yes. Australia? yes. From within the region of the supermarket? I doubt it. So the food has traveled more distance over the course of it’s life to get on the shelf than that which is displayed out at the markets. It seems like a no brainer to me.

Maya123 11:59 am 14 Dec 15

Ezy said :

Maya123 said :

Nilrem said :

I go to Choku Bai Jo in Lyneham. Same kind of quality, closer, and much easier.

If closer to you, likely less carbon miles. The problem with farmer’s markets as they are now, is they are kms from where many people live and difficult to get to with public transport, resulting in large numbers of individual cars driving relatively great distances to buy food, that could be bought more locally, at suburban supermarkets, which could be walked to, cycled to, a bus ride to, or at the least, a much shorter car ride. I like farmer’s markets too, but I find it difficult to justify the kms driven in my car to get to one, when the local supermarket is so much closer, or better still, I could grow my own vegetables. Many (most?) people don’t consider the carbon miles and the car dependency that these markets generate, when they often entail a long trip across Canberra to get to them, or consider that this matters.

Because you have to drive 20 minutes (at the most) to the Canberra farmers markets where all of the produce comes from within the Canberra Region – that makes the carbon miles stack up? So going to the big name supermarkets the smarter alternative? Where do you think the produce at Coles and Woolworths comes from? A good amount has certainly not come within 500kms of Canberra and there is even a good amount that has come from overseas. Those big delivery trucks, planes, factory vehicles etc? You don’t think they are driving up the carbon miles?

If you truly want to reduce carbon miles, the best way to do that is to grow your own fruit and vegetables. Learn to understand the seasons and eat within those seasons. If you are unable to do that, then the next best thing is to support those that can grow locally.

Over the years I have grown a lot of my own food. Just because someone shops at a supermarket is no reason not to at least buy Australian. If one supermarket doesn’t have Australian, go to another that does, as I did with Coles the other day. No Australian olives, so I went to another that did have Australian. And I walk out regularly from supermarkets and go to another, when I can’t find Australian produce; preferably local. If enough people did this, supermarket buying habits would change. Unfortunately most people don’t give a da…

“Because you have to drive 20 minutes (at the most) to the Canberra farmers markets where all of the produce comes from within the Canberra Region – that makes the carbon miles stack up?”

For one person, maybe not so much, but it isn’t just one car driving to the farmer’s market. Consider all the cars. It would be interesting if someone did a study (maybe it has been done already?) working out how much distance is involved in farmer’s markets, with individual cars driving excessive distances to get there, against people being able to walk/cycle (or at least drive much shorter distances) to closer suburban supermarkets. Where I live for instance, there is one supermarket in walking distance, three others in easy cycling distance, and a fruit and vegetable market in walking/cycling distance. All these supermarkets are also on direct bus routes from my local area. The nearest farmer’s market to me would involve at least two buses to get there, and that on a weekend when buses run infrequently, so really not practical. However, if the farmer’s market were moved close to a bus hub, even on a weekend if would make catching public transport to it more viable. The farmer’s markets I know of are in the wrong places.

Ezy 8:05 am 14 Dec 15

Maya123 said :

Nilrem said :

I go to Choku Bai Jo in Lyneham. Same kind of quality, closer, and much easier.

If closer to you, likely less carbon miles. The problem with farmer’s markets as they are now, is they are kms from where many people live and difficult to get to with public transport, resulting in large numbers of individual cars driving relatively great distances to buy food, that could be bought more locally, at suburban supermarkets, which could be walked to, cycled to, a bus ride to, or at the least, a much shorter car ride. I like farmer’s markets too, but I find it difficult to justify the kms driven in my car to get to one, when the local supermarket is so much closer, or better still, I could grow my own vegetables. Many (most?) people don’t consider the carbon miles and the car dependency that these markets generate, when they often entail a long trip across Canberra to get to them, or consider that this matters.

Because you have to drive 20 minutes (at the most) to the Canberra farmers markets where all of the produce comes from within the Canberra Region – that makes the carbon miles stack up? So going to the big name supermarkets the smarter alternative? Where do you think the produce at Coles and Woolworths comes from? A good amount has certainly not come within 500kms of Canberra and there is even a good amount that has come from overseas. Those big delivery trucks, planes, factory vehicles etc? You don’t think they are driving up the carbon miles?

If you truly want to reduce carbon miles, the best way to do that is to grow your own fruit and vegetables. Learn to understand the seasons and eat within those seasons. If you are unable to do that, then the next best thing is to support those that can grow locally.

Maya123 10:47 pm 12 Dec 15

Nilrem said :

I go to Choku Bai Jo in Lyneham. Same kind of quality, closer, and much easier.

If closer to you, likely less carbon miles. The problem with farmer’s markets as they are now, is they are kms from where many people live and difficult to get to with public transport, resulting in large numbers of individual cars driving relatively great distances to buy food, that could be bought more locally, at suburban supermarkets, which could be walked to, cycled to, a bus ride to, or at the least, a much shorter car ride. I like farmer’s markets too, but I find it difficult to justify the kms driven in my car to get to one, when the local supermarket is so much closer, or better still, I could grow my own vegetables. Many (most?) people don’t consider the carbon miles and the car dependency that these markets generate, when they often entail a long trip across Canberra to get to them, or consider that this matters.

creative_canberran 7:52 pm 12 Dec 15

They’re a great initiative. A couple of the Apple growers have fantastic variety, one sells a local mutant of Pink Lady called Lady Laura, best eating Apple I’ve ever had. Look out for it in season around Feb-Apr next year.

Nilrem 12:59 pm 09 Dec 15

I go to Choku Bai Jo in Lyneham. Same kind of quality, closer, and much easier.

Ezy 9:12 am 09 Dec 15

Excellent post.

I love it when I hear about people who are discovering the markets for the first time. These people have usually been getting their produce and supporting the big chain supermarkets who are doing their best to bleed farmers dry. Not that I blame them, it’s how our society is programmed. It is so easy to go to your closest convenience store and stock up on anything you need – even if it is out of season! Tomatoes in winter! Who would have thought?. Buying your produce like that provides such a huge disconnect from where you food actually comes from. Kids learn from this – they think apples come from displays, that meat is just something that comes wrapped in plastic. In the end the price you pay isn’t Everything seems to just come from a big machine – and if we all shop at these big supermarkets then we are part of and supporting this machine.

Even though the markets are not in the prettiest of environments – it doesn’t bother me. You are there for the beautiful and locally grown and in season produce, to take in the smiles and the pride that these growers have in their product.

Rohan from WholeLarderLove sums it up beautifully

“If you give a shit about the impacts of your food other than just your own personal health, then be mindful about where your food comes from. Buy local, and reduce the miles your food travels. Buy food that hasn’t had synthetic chemicals applied in it’s growing stage or in it’s processing stage. Buy less packaged food, reducing impact on environment. Buy food made in your country, even better, within your state, even better within your local food bowl.

There is a lot of food out there that for a long time has been impacting our health, it’s making us obese, it’s giving us hyper tension, anxiety, depression, food intolerances etc and as long as it remains out there for the population to purchase, the resulting health effects will remain, as will the impacts on the natural world.

If we chose not to support it, then maybe we may see change.”

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