Support grows for local producers

The face of farmers markets has changed across the region since coronavirus hit and has given rise to a more serious and intentional shopper, market facilitators have found.
Bendigo Farmers Market organisers have surveyed a 30 per cent increase in regular local shoppers since coronavirus hit and expect to retain these consumers into the future.
Manager for Castlemaine, Maldon and Bendigo Farmers Markets Chris Hain says, anecdotally, stallholders have noticed this change across the board as people actively seek to support local producers.
“We’ve seen a clear and strong pivot in that people want to support their local farmers, growers and producers. To some extent it is making up for what some stallholders have lost without their other means of trade with restaurants and those now with reduced activity or on pause.
“People say they prefer the market experience, enjoy connecting directly with the suppliers and generally feel the measures taken to ensure health and safety has been managed well.”
Markets have been operating with strict risk management guidelines set out by the Victorian Farmers Markets Association, which includes social distancing, good hygiene, encouraging cashless exchange and stripping non-essential elements such as entertainment.
Woodend and Riddells Creek Farmers Markets manager Katherine Bishop said farmers markets had doubled as social events and attracted people from Melbourne, pre-coronavirus restrictions.
About 30-40 per cent of market-goers were typically from outside of the area and not necessarily shopping for groceries.
“Recently there have been fewer visitors but traders are noticing that a lot of people are actually choosing to spend more now,” she said.
Ms Bishop said restrictions on travel and social events meant many were in a position to prioritise quality produce and try new products.
“There are a lot of options for people and it’s really about finding high quality, locally grown food,” she said.
“Farmers markets also have specialty items like truffles, saffron, pickles and chutney and there are new stallholders every month according to season. They are wonderful places to discover new things.”
Another find for many market-goers has been the difference in value compared to traditional supermarkets, says Lancefield Farmers Market’s Vivien Philpotts.
“There’s a common belief that farmers markets are more expensive – but we have seen that they are often better value,” she said.
In one instance, a cauliflower comparison by a local resident found supermarket cost was $5.50 while Lancefield Farmers Market’s price tag was $6.50. Ms Philpotts said the difference was, the vegetable was double in weight and it had been picked and sold the next day at market.
“Buying from the market means there are no or few food miles, it can actually be cheaper and you are supporting a local producer,” she said.
Ms Philpotts said it felt as though people had changed their habits over the past few months and were relying more on local suppliers.
“There’s a different feel: people are coming to buy rather than just browse. We hope that continues into the future and that people continue to see the value of shopping locally,” she said.
“One thing the coronavirus has shown is that the supermarkets can’t always be there when we need them.”

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