The farmers’ market was, in a pre-twentieth century civilisation, the best and in many places the only way to buy fresh produce. In small towns, they were your weekly shop, in cities your local greengrocer would source their stock directly from the growers. With the advent of the supermarket the number of middle men between the farm and your fridge increased somewhat, along with the expectations for chemically enhanced size and aesthetic consistency. Things reached a nadir in the 1970’s, with frozen foods and instant mixes replacing the fresh ingredients of the previous generation, all in the name of convenience and a sizeable dose of marketing. This ugly trend was spearheaded by people who should have known better, professional chefs hosting TV shows, publishing books, and churning out magazine recipes.
The farmers’ market continued to exist only as an outdated hippy curiosity.
As the twenty-first century approached the tide began to turn, and a new breed of celebrity chefs were at least partly responsible, this time endorsing the use of the freshest and most naturally produced ingredients available. A global awareness of nutrition and health, the impact of chemical treatments and the controversy of GM foods made consumers wary of what modern supermarkets had on offer. Supermarkets attempted to counter this mistrust by introducing some organically grown stock, however this was often pricey. These disatisfactions, along with a certain amount of nostalgia – making things the way Grandma did – has enticed shoppers back to the source. The farmers’ market.
In New Zealand, farmers’ markets have seen a tremendous rise in popularity over the past twenty years. There’s now a large number of weekly markets held around the country, and in 2005 Farmers’ Market New Zealand (FMNZ) was incorporated to help govern and promote some of these independently owned operations. They estimate that weekly about 50,000 Kiwi’s attend their markets to hand-pick seasonal fruit and vegetables, fresh baking, and plants. No longer just a communal event for alternative-lifestylers, the next wave of punters were middle class urbanites, smugly loading home grown herbs and preserves into their SUV’s. Slowly, a core of regular customers from all strands of Kiwi life began to make market-going a part of their weekly shop, not out of high ethics or snobbery, but because ultimately they were comfortable dealing directly with the growers and makers, and content that they were being charged fairly. The money they spend is going straight back into the local community, and supporting thousands of small businesses instead of a handful of corporations. And the scheme is still growing.
If the moral, nutritional, financial and emotional reasons weren’t enough, the markets are usually a great way for a family to spend a Saturday morning. Read the online blurb for the Matakana market (just an hour north of Auckland) and I’m sure you’ll understand the appeal:
“…the vibrant farmer’s market is a focal point for locals and growers to meet. Luscious produce from the area fills the stalls – fruit and vegetables, delicious home baking and Italian-style sausages, divine organic chocolate, fine wines and boutique olive oils, locally-brewed beer, the all-important morning coffee and live music as an accompaniment.”
Nearly 30 local markets are now under the FMNZ umbrella, with the customer enjoying many benefits. FMNZ’s focus is on authenticity, and stallholders have to meet some basic requirements in order to join: the food must be produced locally (each market defines the exact area it regards as local), and the vendor must be directly involved with its production (no wholesalers or middle men). They have introduced an optional Authenticity Scheme for individual markets, as well as an award program for outstanding products, all incentives for the vendors to up their game. The standard is higher than ever.
If you haven’t discovered your local farmers’ market, we think you are missing out on a truly rewarding experience. It’s a good chance to mingle with neighbours, meet the vendors, enjoy the atmosphere, and come away with a few goodies. To find your nearest happening, Google for dozens of independent ones. Here is the FMNZ’s list from North to South:
Bay of Islands Farmers’ Market (organisers) Website: Click Here
(Includes Kerikeri Farmers’ Market & Paihia Farmers’ Market)
Matakana Village Farmers’ Market Website:Click Here
Hobsonville Point Farmers’ Market Website:Click Here
Orewa Beach Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Grey Lynn Farmer’s Market Website: Click Here
Parnell Farmers Market Website:Click Here
Tauranga Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Waikato Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
(Includes Cambridge Farmers’ Market & Hamilton Farmers’ Market)
Feilding Farmers’ Market Website : Click Here
Whanganui Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Palmy Farmers’ Market Information Click Here
Kaikoura Farmers’ Market Click here
Marlborough Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Nelson Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Oxford Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Lyttelton Farmers Market Website: Click Here
Waipara Valley Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Ashburton District Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Ohoka Farmers Market Website: Click Here
Cromwell Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here . Closed in Winter, opening from Labour weekend.
Gore Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Otago Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here
Southern Farmers’ Market Website: Click Here