Why a farmers' market?

Speech given at the inaugural Macedon Village Farmers’ Market on 30th March 2019.

As president of the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group it gives me great pleasure this morning to participate in the opening ceremony for the inaugural Macedon Village Farmers' Market. This morning is the culmination of many, many hours of planning and preparation by several volunteers from MRSG's Farmers' Markets action group headed by Robert Bruhn, the representatives from Macedon Primary School, and the very professional services of our market manager, Katherine Bishop. It is an excellent example, Principal, just what can be done when organisations share a vision and much goodwill.

Why would an organisation like MRSG that focuses on sustainability issues be interested in supporting a farmers' market in Macedon? I shall give two reasons:

First, Farmers' Markets provide very high quality food in a sustainable way. They are a direct protest against and reaction to industrial-scale agriculture which treats food as a commodity, something to be produced at the least possible cost, to be grown in climate controlled artificial environments, using huge quantities of energy, pesticides, and herbicides to support its monoculture, and freighted over long distances from the four corners of the earth, just so the supermarket consumer can feel that he or she can get whatever food they want, year-round, at the lowest possible price. The Farmers Market movement says there is something fundamentally flawed and unsustainable in the system when we are able to buy a litre of milk for $1, our honey from China, and our garlics from Argentina.  Striving for the lowest possible price has cost us too much.

Farmers Markets provide something that supermarkets and industrial-scale agriculture cannot: fresh, higher quality, better-tasting food, and a broader range of cultivars, purely because the food is produced locally, and doesn't need the chemical preservatives, narrowed selection, and other mechanisms to cope with long transportation distances. Yes, you will not find pineapples being sold year round at the Macedon Village Farmers Market but many people are finding it refreshing and exciting to attune their lives and their cooking to the seasonality, diversity, and regionalisation of food (something that the Europeans have understood with AOC  Appellation d'Origine Controllée) - which is appreciated here with respect to wine and cheeses and is gradually expanding to vegetables, fruit, etc. If you cannot grow or raise your food yourself, the next best thing is to buy it from the farmers' market.

Second, Farmers Markets build community, perhaps one of the most important contributions to a region's sustainability. Here, you can speak directly to the producer or grower about their produce; make suggestions; get to know where the food comes from; get advice on how to cook that piece of fish or that rare vegetable. You are a customer and not merely a consumer.

The Farmers Markets movement ensures that farmers and producers are valued as essential members of the local community. It recognises that they have a right to make a living, that there is such a thing as a fair price for food, that we do need to have tracts of farmland close to our towns, that we need to plan our urban development with agribusiness in mind, something which our Shire Council thankfully are fully cognisant of. In so doing, we are enhancing our food security and avoiding the Macedon Ranges becoming a food desert.

Finally, Farmers Markets also provide a great informal space where you will invariably bump into other people from the local community, have a chat over a coffee, where the kids can safely play together and so on. My only advice is that you probably ought to budget extra time at the Farmers' Market. If a clinical supermarket shopping expedition normally takes 15 minutes then you can expect that a similar foray to the Farmers' Market will take an extra hour or so; there will be so many people that you need to chat to, and that is what living in a community is about.

David Gormley-O’Brien