Food for thought

Culi­nary re­spect and tra­di­tion key to farm­ers’ mar­ket suc­cess

Myrtleford Times - - Front Page - By JAMIE KRONBORG

VIC­TO­RIAN Farm­ers’ Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Kate Archdea­con be­lieves the in­her­ent strength of the one-year-old Myrtle­ford farm­ers’ mar­ket – which marked its first an­niver­sary on Satur­day – of­fers sig­nif­i­cant prospects for its devel­op­ment.

She said a tra­di­tion of re­spect for food ev­i­dent in Myrtle­ford and Ovens Val­ley com­mu­ni­ties – in which Myrtle­ford, pro­por­tion­ally, has one of Vic­to­ria’s largest pop­u­la­tions of peo­ple of Ital­ian de­scent – was a pow­er­ful as­set.

“I no­ticed when I’d only been in the town for less than 24 hours (late last week) that there are strong multi-gen­er­a­tional links which you don’t al­ways see,” she told the Times-Ob­server at the mar­ket on Satur­day.

“It’s fairly unique thing to be able to pre­serve in a re­gional town.

“And what it means is that peo­ple are com­ing back to be near their fam­i­lies and have kids and start busi­nesses.”

But she said it also pre­sented an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity be­cause in­her­ent aware­ness of lo­cally-pro­duced food and food qual­ity should stim­u­late de­mand.

“I think the most im­por­tant part of this mar­ket is that it’s spon­sored by (Myrtle­ford-- based farm and agribusi­ness sup­plies co-op­er­a­tive) TAFCO and it’s run by TAFCO,” Ms Archdea­con said.

“So the fact that it’s so closely tied to the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and devel­op­ment of farm­ers and value-adding in the re­gion is one of the things that make it so strong.

“It’s be­ing sup­ported by peo­ple who have a long-term vi­sion for what a mar­ket does as a plat­form for the wider re­gion, so they’re re­ally sup­port­ive of the busi­ness in­cu­ba­tion po­ten­tial of the mar­ket such as this.

“They’re con­stantly look­ing for more ed­u­ca­tion and more em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Ms Archdea­con said mar­ket or­gan­is­ers’ busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence and per­sis­tence meant sea­sonal ebb and flow and cold win­ters were not con­sid­ered im­ped­i­ments to mar­ket devel­op­ment.

“They ac­cept that there are times when things don’t grow here,” she said.

“And that’s un­usual for a mar­ket in its first year to un­der­stand that so closely – that there are sea­sonal cy­cles – and be­ing able to talk to the stall­hold­ers about that when they’re re­ally isn’t much grow­ing and it’s -2°C.”

Ms Archdea­con said the next chal­lenge for Myrtle­ford mar­ket was to “ac­cept or work around the fact that there isn’t re­ally a lot of mar­ket gar­den­ing in this im­me­di­ate re­gion, but that it’s a farm­ers’ mar­ket in which you don’t have to be able to buy ev­ery­thing at the mar­ket for it still to be a mar­ket”.

“That’s im­por­tant and it’s about talk­ing to dif­fer­ent stall- hold­ers and the community.”

She said it was clear that there was more food pro­duc­tion in the val­ley than the spread of foods rep­re­sented in the mar­ket.

“So we, as the as­so­ci­a­tion, are try­ing to work out what some of the mech­a­nisms might be for get­ting the larger scale farm­ers to have some kind of rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the mar­ket – be­cause there’s so much op­por­tu­nity,” she said.

She said so­cial en­ter­prise could be one av­enue.

“I’m think­ing – ‘What is our model as an as­so­ci­a­tion for en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple or any­body re­ally who wants to sell to be in­volved with the farms and then bring the prod­uct to mar­ket?” she said.

Ms Archdea­con said the mar­ket should also build the lo­cal food econ­omy for the ben­e­fit of all.

“If re­tail­ers are open at the same time as the mar­ket there can be a huge gain from it,” she said.

“Then there’s the op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal butch­ers, say, to stock meat from a farm­ers’ mar­ket pro­ducer and you start to see a part­ner­ship de­velop where peo­ple can buy all month the prod­uct that they can now only get at the mar­ket once a month.

“Peo­ple get used to good qual­ity stuff – and then you get a di­rect ben­e­fit.”

PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

OP­POR­TU­NITY: Vic­to­rian Farm­ers’ Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Kate Archdea­con – who at­tended the one-year-old Myrtle­ford farm­ers’ mar­ket an­niver­sary on Satur­day – be­lieves the val­ley’s food cul­ture and en­ter­prise of­fers strong growth prospects.

EN­GAGED: Ron Hunter and Karen Dosser, who man­ages Pa­trizia Si­mone’s stall at Myrtle­ford farm­ers’ mar­ket, spoke with Beech­worth’s Joan Simms on Satur­day.

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