WHEN bans on public events were introduced last month, some farmers markets were worried they might be closed down.
It came as a great relief when the government announced food markets – like supermarkets – were classified as an essential service and could continue to operate.
Farmers markets have quickly adapted to the new ‘normal’, implementing social distancing and hygiene measures to protect their customers and stallholders.
At our market, stalls have been rearranged and moved further apart, lines marked to ensure those in queues maintain their distance and hygiene measures like hand washing and sanitizing stations introduced.
Taking away the social aspect of the farmers markets by removing table and chairs, discouraging groups from attending and asking customers to ‘shop ‘n’ go’ has been sad, as markets have become such important hubs for the community, but their core purpose – proving fresh food to the community and helping to keep local farming alive – remains.
The empty supermarket shelves we’ve seen in recent weeks have only highlighted the importance of our farmers market to the local community.
It’s forced us to think about where our food comes from and how it gets to us (and wonder what might happen if the delicate supply chains that deliver our food to us from all over the world were interrupted).
Part of the response to concerns about food security has been a surge in people wanting to grow their own food. Our seedling suppliers at New Brighton Farmers Markets have seen a massive spike in demand for their seedlings, as have local nurseries.
On the other hand, interest in finding alternative, local, fresh food sources, including local farmers markets has also increased. Stallholders say they now have new customers – people who have never shopped at a farmers market before – coming along. It’s a natural response to want to feel secure about where you’re food is coming from, and having local farmers you can rely on provides that security.
Increased awareness of where our food comes from, who produces it and how it gets to us may be one of the positives to come from the current crisis.
And in a few months, all those who have been attempting to grow their own food for the first time will have a whole new appreciation for our local farmers, just how essential they are, and why we need to continue to support them to keep doing the incredible work they do.