The Slow Food Earth Market Maitland is a first for Australia

To ensure the fresh produce market they have created in collaboration with the Maitland Council and local farmers stays true to its roots, Slow Food Hunter Valley will make history on Thursday when the growing venture becomes Australia’s first Earth Market.

This world-wide network has been established according to guidelines that follow the Slow Food philosophy – Good, Clean and Fair Food for all.

An Earth Market is created when an interested community come together to establish a new place for consumers and food producers to meet. And, this is exactly what has transpired in Maitland after the plight of local farmers came to the attention of Slow Food Hunter Valley leader, Amorelle Dempster.

DRIVING FORCE: Chef Amorelle Dempster, who owns Reader's Cafe and Larder, East Maitland was compelled to act after speaking to local farmers.  PIC: Simone De Peak.

DRIVING FORCE: Chef Amorelle Dempster, who owns Reader's Cafe and Larder, East Maitland was compelled to act after speaking to local farmers. PIC: Simone De Peak.

The chef, cafe owner, and driving force behind the evolving market, has been involved with the Slow Food movement for over 20 years. “We can buy any type of food we want in Australia but we are not good at thinking about the politics of food,” she explains.

However, it was the prospect of Morpeth farmer, Matt Dennis, having to “plough in a 40-tonne pumpkin crop” that really prompted her to take action. This is when Ms Dempster approached the Council with her idea –  to sell the pumpkins for $3 each at a pop-stand in the heart of Maitland at The Levee.

All this transpired just over 12 months ago and now the vision moving forward is about diversity and giving local artisan producers a voice. Along with encouraging young farmers to grow food and supply the community to ensure food security and for good health. 

COMMUNITY: Helen Hughes a volunteer with Slow Food Hunter Valley who has been helping local farmers sell their produce.

COMMUNITY: Helen Hughes a volunteer with Slow Food Hunter Valley who has been helping local farmers sell their produce.

The farmers behind it all

From produce to Earth Market, these are some of the local farmers who are working to supply produce that is organically, biodynamically or sustainably grown. 

A relative newcomer to the evolving market is Marrook Farm which is located on the mid-north coast at Elands.

NEWCOMER:  Farmhand, Lucy Quinn, is excited about the connection the Earth Market establishes between the grower and consumer.

NEWCOMER: Farmhand, Lucy Quinn, is excited about the connection the Earth Market establishes between the grower and consumer.

Their bio-dynamic quality cultured dairy products have real integrity and this perfectly aligns with the principles of the Slow Food Movement –  “Good, Clean and Fair Food for all”. 

They take a holistic approach on the farm and believe health soils equals healthy food and thus, healthy people.

So this is why farmhand, Lucy Quinn, is travelling from the Mid-North Coast on Thursday to set up shop at the official launch of Australia’s first Slow Food Earth Market in Maitland.

It will be the second time she has done so after visiting the fresh produce markets and approaching Amorelle about getting on board.

Lucy describes the farm as a single herd farmhouse cheese and yoghurt producer.

She says to sell produce at the market they had to go through an extensive certification process.

“We had to provide extensive details of our operation and a member of the Slow Food convivia came up to inspect the farm to ensure we were aligned with their principles,” Lucy explains.

What excites her most about being a part of the Earth Markets is the “connection” it establishes between producers and customers.

Four Acre Farm’s Tom and Dominique grow garlic, flowers and annual vegetables at their Marshdale Farm near Dungog. They sell their produce at local markets and have started to expand into a full-blown market garden.  The couple are planning on planting a food forest along with reinvigorating the land. 

Clean food is an important motivation for them. They are concerned about the environment and the impact we have upon it. No chemicals are used in growing and they aim to produce food they are proud of and which tastes good.

YOUNG FARMER: Sophie Nichols from Verdant Produce has been selling her citrus produce and free range eggs at the market.

YOUNG FARMER: Sophie Nichols from Verdant Produce has been selling her citrus produce and free range eggs at the market.

Sophie Nichols from Verdant Produce operates a property in Lower Belford where she produces pasture-raised beef, grows fruit trees, produces vegetables and raises chickens. She grows a range of citrus, figs, stone fruits and apples. 

She farms a range of vegetables that vary with the seasons and is working on brassicas – many of which are heirloom varieties adapted to local conditions. The chickens are raised free-range and are mostly Isa Brown. 

Her produce varies widely with the seasons as she works with the climate. The farm is designed to have at least some fruit and vegetables year round but of course, as a temperate climate, more produce is harvested in the warmer months. 

Little Hill Farm’s Kelly and Simon produce pasture-raised chickens at their Mt Vincent property . They raise both meat birds and egg-production birds through sustainable, biodynamic practises. As part of their sustainability practises they have introduced Sommerlad Heritage Chickens – an Australian breed that fares better outdoors, are slower growing, have better foraging characteristics and have more flavour. 

They started their farm out of a deep concern about what our children’s future and a firm belief there are better ways to treat animals destined for human consumption than what we see in today’s industrialised farming practises. 

After an international career in food security and agribusinesses, Sarah Sivyer left the corporate world to return to her farming roots and wanted to start something that would compliment the existing family beef business and, at the same time, wanted to really appeal to people who could remember what (real) eggs used to taste like. 

This led to the Just Been Laid brand under which Sarah produces eggs in mobile caravans on fresh pasture. She Sarah now brings to market eggs from chickens that are living a lifestyle that makes them happy, ensures their wellbeing and allows them to live in a natural environment while still being part of the food production system.

Check out this link for more local growers...

This story Connecting farmers and consumers: Australia’s first Earth Market first appeared on The Singleton Argus.