Push to expand farmers' markets

Market forces: The Lennox Head farmers’ market at Williams Reserve on Sunday is one of the many markets in the region.
Market forces: The Lennox Head farmers’ market at Williams Reserve on Sunday is one of the many markets in the region. Jay Cronan

ON MOST days there is a farmers’ market operating somewhere in the Northern Rivers.

Yet, while some may argue there are now enough markets to satisfy demand, FoodLinks has recently won government funding to appoint a consultant to investigate expanding the reach and size of markets in the region.

“Farmers’ markets have been identified as a major food distribution point in the region,” said FoodLinks regional project officer Jane Laverty.

“In regards to food security and people being able to access food, farmers’ markets were way up there in importance.”

The importance of food security was highlighted by the recent floods in Queensland’s food bowl, with Treasurer Wayne Swan warning of a spike in checkout prices.

Ms Laverty said the part-time consultant would work with the various market committees to determine if more markets were needed and whether some should relocate to larger sites to meet demand from farmers who want to sell their produce.

“Across the region the markets are all set up differently and have been operating for different lengths of time,” Ms Laverty said.

“We realise we aren’t in a position to tell markets how they should operate, but we can help facilitate them to work with each other and share their knowledge.”

She said a recent survey of local households found that, on average, they shopped for food four times a week.

While it would be impractical to encourage consumers to only shop at farmers’ markets, Ms Laverty said FoodLinks wanted to encourage people to consider markets as a viable option.

The president of the Byron Farmers’ Market, John Aitkin, yesterday welcomed the appointment of a consultant, which should be finalised by week’s end.

“It’s definitely a good idea,” he said. “Part of the funding is for coordination and to try and bring the markets together.”

Mr Aitkin said recent expansion at New Brighton and Mullumbimby markets had been very successful.

He said while the Byron market had five vacant stalls, it was important to encourage more farmers to apply so that co-ordinating committees could ensure a good mix between stallholders.

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