Emerald set to shine bright

November 09, 2017

Erin Balfour at Sunday's Shepparton Farmers Market, one year in.

Mark Vassallo, of Porepunkah, at his stall.

Organisers say the Shepparton Motor Museum car park and Emerald Bank frontage has proved an ideal location for the market, one year in.

Grahame Eddy from Katamatite Garlic, with some of his produce.

caption: Ron Stewart and Cam Mangiameli were on sausage sizzle duty.

caption: Ron Stewart and Cam Mangiameli were on sausage sizzle duty.

The Shepparton Farmers Market is considering expanding to a fortnightly or even weekly format moving forward, after a promising first year, amid challenges.

Sunday marked the one-year anniversary since the farmers market at Kialla’s Emerald Bank began.

And while the market’s success has proved weather dependent and inconsistent from month to month, a new truck museum proposal for the rear of the precinct could provide a future venue to ensure the market can proceed, rain, hail or shine.

Market organiser Erin Balfour says she has observed an appetite from locals for buying direct from producers rather than from a middle man or supermarket, and interest in learning about where the produce is from.

‘‘That they can actually get it direct from the farmer without anyone in between and then they know what they’re getting, they can talk to the farmer...’’

Ms Balfour believes there was a clear absence of a farmers market locally before the Emerald Bank venture.

She says a prior obstacle has been that Melbourne, perhaps ironically, has plenty of choice for farmers markets, with some producers having been more interested in selling their quality produce to the city.

‘‘If you’ve got really good produce, most of the time you send it to Melbourne markets,’’ she said of the traditional view, ‘‘rather than little markets (where) maybe it’s a bit hit and miss as to how much you’ll sell.’’

The hope is for a strong relationship to be forged between the farmer and the customer, locals attending the market week in week out and the market fitting into their grocery shopping schedule.

‘‘(So) they think, ‘oh, I’ve run out of garlic, I know there’s a garlic guy coming to the Shepparton farmers market, I’m going to come and see him’,’’ Ms Balfour says.

‘‘And having regular stall holders means the customers can then rely on those stall holders to be there.’’

Market regular Grahame Eddy, from Katamatite Garlic, says after a positive start and difficulty during the winter months, attendance has stabilised.

He says improved local support at the market ‘‘would be awesome,’’ adding there needs to be an understanding of the quality of produce on offer.

‘‘There is a core group that love the farmers market and that’s where they do their shopping. If you’re coming for a day, people aren’t necessarily going to buy their groceries and things on the day.’’

Mr Eddy said while the market becoming a destination event was a positive for attendance, he stressed the importance of the farmers market retaining its identity.

A key aim moving forward for market organisers is to ensure 100 per cent of stall holders are farmers-market accredited.

Ms Balfour describes the accreditation as an important stipulation and one the market impresses on all new stall holders. A main challenge the market has come up against has been ensuring a steady supply of fruit and vegetable growers can sell at the market across the calender year.

‘‘We really struggle with getting producers that can provide us with fruit and vegies all year round that they have grown,’’ Ms Balfour said.

‘‘That’s our main challenge, but we’re trying to work through that,’’ she said.

A truck museum project soon set to be under way may also provide the market with new opportunities, and ensure it remains more weather resistant.

A $6million truck and transport museum is planned for 10000sqm of land adjacent to the Shepparton Motor Museum.

The project aims to incorporate 3000sqm of indoor and 7000sqm of outdoor exhibition space showcasing the truck and transport industry’s contribution to the region.

Greater Shepparton City Council gave an in-principle green light to the project last month, with the conditional approval, contingent on other funding being forthcoming for the project.

Ms Balfour says the proposed project could provide the market with undercover space to ensure it runs regardless of weather and help reach a goal of becoming more regular.

‘‘It could potentially go twice a month, or weekly,’’ Ms Balfour said.

‘‘That’s the aim in the next couple of years.

‘‘We do run regardless of the weather most times anyway, but it’s always nice to be walking under cover and not getting wet.’’

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