Having visited a lot of markets around the country, I can happily say that the one at Exhibition Park in Canberra is one of the best.
The thing that makes it so special is the “quality control” that its operator, the Rotary Club of Hall, lends to the event. The stallholders are closely vetted so that it is a genuine farmers market where there’s a high chance you’ll be talking to the person who grew or made the product.
And hasn’t it grown! From just 18 stalls and around 1000 customers in 2004, it has sprouted to almost 200 registered stallholders and around 100 stalls and 5000 customers each week.
Although previous farmers market projects in Canberra had failed, the timing for this one was right. Farmers in the region were under pressure because of drought and inadequate wholesale arrangements. Many small producers were just starting out and needed an outlet.
Incredibly, the market was established without any financial support or grants from governments or other sources.
Even more incredibly, it is still managed by the not-for-profit Rotary Club of Hall which, over the past 10 years, has been delighted to do something positive to underpin the growing agri-business opportunities in the region, and to offer a great seasonal food experience to ACT residents and visitors.
All profits from the stallholder fees are fed back into regional communities and other projects chosen by the Club.
I love shopping at the market, not just because of the wonderful fresh produce I can buy there, but also because of its social nature. Almost invariably we run into like-minded friends who are up for a chat (even though we’re all rushing to get to our favourite stalls before the – in my humble opinion, too early – closing time).
Adding to the social atmosphere are the cooking demonstrations run by the market’s resident forchefs on the first Saturday of each month. As it happens, they’ll be doing a demo for this Saturday’s Family Fun Day Birthday Party, the first of various celebrations planned for the year.
Saturday’s birthday party will also feature a teddy bear’s picnic, a jumping castle and glitter tattooists from The Gecko Gang, live music from Zambezi Sounds, and a patting paddock where children can meet the animals, talk to the farmers and find out where their food and fibres come from.
There’ll be a giant birthday cake and 100 Capital Region Farmers Market goodie bags up for grabs. Ten stallholders who have been with the market since day one will be presented with certificates.
Market director Vic Gibbons says the party is just one of many great things planned for the 10-year celebrations. “This year is going to be a huge one for us,” he said.
What? Family Fun Day Birthday Party
Where? Capital Region Farmers Market, Exhibition Park in Canberra
When? Saturday, March 1, 2014, 7.30am – 11.30am
More information? www.capitalregionfarmersmarket.com.au