This is my second year selling my excess produce at market and I have a few observations.
I have a very ordinary suburban backyard. So ordinary in fact that many people are disappointed and experience feelings of anticlimax when they see how average it all is. Truth is we make good use of our space and it is testament that nearly every yard can be sustaining.
We grow without chemicals, have done for at least 20years. I don't even bother with Pyrethrum sprays anymore. I find keeping things in balance so that the whole system works together are far more conducive and economical. Insects and bugs are good for your garden and are pollinators too. Everything is part of somebody else's food chain, even fungi, so you don't want to be eradicating anything.
The growers market at Perth (Tas) held in the beautiful gardens of ut si cafe. It is a converted old Anglican church with an edible landscape and a creative and energetic team of passionate people. The growers market is a result of one of the owners, Colette, trying to embody all her passions into one living space. She is passionate about food, people, the seasons, community, ethical meat production and organics.
She does not charge any fees for stall holders.
The cafe is simply trying to be the facilitator that brings a community together to access local food free from chemicals. Food grown in the season and with minimal oil miles.
This allows excess garden produce to be shared with others and for people to network together and meet and chat at market like the old days.
Simple conversations birth new recipes and growing tips between growers and buyers.
Food at it's most basic and best.
Many times I have added up several items that someone has bought and said $4.50 and people are stunned at the price and expect it to be dearer. It's simple though; it's local, fresh and comes with low overheads.
It is a big curve of education though, I have people coming down to the market wanting to buy basil in early spring when frost is still on the ground and though there is about 5-6 other varieties of herbs flourishing, they still want to be able to buy a summer herb out of season.
It has taken a couple of years but I am gradually seeing more locals coming to get fresh produce now realising that it isn't an elitist "foodie-fad" market but a place to get something to put in the pot for dinner.
A lot of people pay lip service to the idea of growers markets and fresh, local organic food but at the end of the day they are not well patronised by these same people. One reason is because they would really rather just buy everything at a supermarket; newspapers, toiletries, meat, vegetables, baked goods, hardware....even petrol. And there are a lot of closed newsagents and butchers etc to attest to that.
The other reason is that people lack imagination and skill. A lot of people find it impossible to look at a selection of 5 or 6 seasonal ingredients and come up with a couple of different meals. Many people have lost the art of cooking with fresh herbs too.
So a couple of us battle on trying to encourage other growers to bring their excess to market to provide greater quantities and choice for people. I see food falling off trees in people's yards and when I suggest they bring it to the market, they say "I wouldn't have enough".
What is enough? Is it better that food should rot on the ground rather than be distributed within the community. So what if you sell out in an hour? The money you make from the plums can be used to buy fresh peas and rhubarb from someone else. Everyone goes home richer, mostly in spirit.
And now a new challenge.
A Farmer's Market starting in the bigger town where an average stall costs $50. If you charge a premium to sell then prices have to reflect that to cover costs. To charge more, food has to be seen as more. This is when fresh and local becomes boutique and commercial. Simple backyard growers are in another league entirely but there does need to be somewhere for the small commercial growers to showcase their goods.
I am an absolute champion of struggling small businesses and small growers but I hate being deliberately ripped off and I have been recently- BIG TIME! I use the words "heritage" and "heirloom" to describe and inform, not to jack up the prices.
Someone related an interesting story the other day;
"I put a perfectly good fridge on the footpath with a sign on the front 'give away', and there it sat. After a time I changed the sign to 'For Sale $100'. Do you know that fridge was 'stolen' within minutes"
It is a shame that it is only the things with a significant dollar value that makes us perceive real value.
At the end of the day a Green Zebra is still a tomato and a Purple Sapphire is still a potato.
But then maybe it is my perceptions that are skewed. I've been accused more then once of being too cheap!
Do you support your local growers?
Do you think your local markets represent value for money?
Or do you think food has just gained too much wank-factor?
Do you make the extra effort to buy from specialist individuals, like butchers and newsagents and growers?
Do you have excess in your garden and would you like to spend a gorgeous Saturday morning meeting a few real people and swapping some recipes?
See you at ut si Saturdays, 8-12.
This is an Alan Jackson song I like called
"The Little Man"