Food for thought
Culinary respect and tradition key to farmers’ market success
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.”
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.