About a year ago Tess (of Sellar’s Farmhouse Creamery) ‘roped me in’ to the Castlemaine Farmers Market committee (I secretly loved the idea). In spite of knowing my participation beyond offering my two cents at bimonthly meetings would be seriously limited, I enthusiastically joined! Seems my passion outweighs my actual capacity for contribution. Nonetheless, I showed up to offer a farmer’s opinion alongside Tess and Marita (of Pink Museli).
Farmers markets only account for a tiny precent of produce sales but are growing thanks to the tireless work of groups like VFMA, MFM and all of the (mostly volunteer) committees across Victoria. They form key piece of the food sovereignty web, by facilitating direct producer-eater interactions.
This not only means eaters get the most nutritious food, resulting in better health, but also that the money continues to circulate within the local economy and the farmer gets their fair share of it. Direct sales also mean low food miles and transparency in the food system.
At a farmers market you can ask things like ‘what do you feed your cows?’ or ‘what kinds of fertilisers do you use?’ and then choose the producer that best fits your values. I wonder what kind of reaction you’d get from a supermarket checkout person if you asked, ‘is the corn that made the corn syrup in this museli bar conventional, organic or GM?’ or ‘were the workers who harvested this qunoa paid fairly?’.
Castlemaine Farmers Market (CFM) has been operating almost 15 years and is now one of the regions’ most popular farmers market events. With an impressive array of fresh and value-added produce, ready-to-eat food, local musicians and cooking demonstrations, the monthly Sunday market regularly attracts a large crowd of locals and tourists alike.
However, if I’m not mistaken, most people do their shopping more than once a month, and from a food sovereignty perspective, the community should have access to affordable, local, unadulterated produce at all times. With this in mind, CFM was keen to create additional market days. At the same time, the Gung Hoe Growers were trying to figure out how to expand their CSA pick-up day to include more producers on a regular basis.
And thus, the ‘CFM Weekly’ was born. As a collaboration between CFM and our co-op (HOFC), we will launch early Nov and be open for business every Wednesday between 3.30 and 6.30 next to the Ray Bradfield Room in the centre of Castlemaine. Shoppers will be able to purchase their full weekly ‘shopping basket’ or collect pre-ordered produce (including CSA Shares!)
We will be prioritising producers form the Mount Alexander Shire and supporting new small-scale food and farming enterprises to participate. We will be seeking out producers who practice regenerative farming methods and bringing the best local produce directly to our community. This is food sovereignty in action. I’m so excited and I hope to see you all there. You can even ask me ‘what do you feed your peaches?’.