The push is on to disclose farmers’ markets that aren’t the real deal..

The Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association has begun to educate customers about the difference between gen­uine, accredited farmers’ markets and unaccredited markets selling fresh produce. VFMA president Wayne Shields said the popularity of farmers’ markets in Victoria had “exploded” over the past few years, but the downside was the growing number of those passing off their events as genuine farmers’ markets when they “clearly” were not.   The VFMA classifies gen­uine farmers’ markets as ones where farmers sell their own produce, which is grown on farms they own and operate. At community markets, anyone can sell produce they have bought from wholesalers, grocers or supermarkets.

Yarra Valley cherry grower Frank Caccaviello said onselling meant higher prices and poorer quality produce for the consumer. “The onsellers are buying fruit they don’t know the age of — it could be a week old,” Mr Caccaviello said. “They also have to mark-up the price more because they have to add their margin.”

Timboon organic dairy farmer Simon Schultz said ­attending genuine farmers’ markets had helped his business grow from having one employee to 26. “Through the markets we seem to be able to find like-minded chefs and retailers who contact us to source genuine products from genuine people,” Mr Schulz said. “I think consumers have lost the connection with their food and that’s why they come to farmers’ markets — they know the person on the other side of the stall is a farmer. “I think there is confusion out there and some people are duped by the cross-promotion of calling something a farmers’ market when there might be onsellers there.”

Regional Farmers Markets runs markets across Victoria, which are not accredited, but said it adheres to “strict conditions of operation”. Manager Peter Arnold said many stallholders at his markets did not want to pay VFMA’s fees and felt its acc­reditation was too strict. “We allow stallholders to sell their neighbour’s produce as long as they identify it that way,” Mr Arnold said. “It is up to the consumer to ask — buyer beware. “What some people are trying to do is hijack the name ‘farmers’ market’ and define it, but it’s like a garage sale — a garage sale doesn’t necessarily have to be in a garage.”

Original article by Alex Sampson for The Weekly Times.

A local food revolution has been launched at the heart of the Bendigo Community Farmers' Market.

The Victorian Farmers' Market Association said Bendigo’s thriving local food scene made it the perfect location to launch their campaign to encourage people to source food at their roots. President Wayne Shields said there had been a major push where people supported their local farmers, rather than shopping at the big supermarkets.

“Supermarkets have abused their power a bit. They lost touch and chase profits … but at what cost?” he said. “Farmers learn from their customers and take the feedback back to the farm.” Local federal member Lisa Chesters and newly-elected mayor Rod Fyffe were testing out their culinary assemblage skills at the Saturday morning market, with ham, cheese and figs on offer.

Original article courtesy of Bendigo Advertiser.

A new public awareness campaign is set to put the ‘farmer’ back into Victoria’s farmers’ markets.

The Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association (VFMA) is stepping up its efforts to ensure stallholders that trade at farmers’ markets genuinely are the farmers who grow the produce they sell. The first salvo in the VFMA’s campaign is a visually-striking new logo that will signify whether a farmers’ market and its stallholders are “the real deal”. The association has also announced renowned chef and author Rosa Mitchell, from Melbourne’s Rosa’s Kitchen and Rosa’s Canteen restaurants, will become an official ambassador for the farmers’ market movement. Rosa is an advocate for cooking with locally-grown fresh food and has long been a passionate supporter of farmer’s markets. “I love shopping at farmers’ markets which are always full of small independent growers. They are the place where you can be confident you are getting fresh, locally grown produce which hasn’t travelled far by the time it gets to your kitchen,” said Rosa.

Growing trend

VFMA president, Wayne Shields, says it’s important the Victorian public understands the difference between a genuine farmers’ market versus a market that simply masquerades as one. “The popularity of farmers’ markets in Victoria has exploded over the past few years; the downside of this trend is that a growing number of market organisers are passing off their events, knowingly or unwittingly, as genuine farmers’ markets, when clearly they are not. “These markets are popping up all over the place, however, they’re not really farmers’ markets - they tend to be dominated by stallholders selling a range of goods sourced from wherever, not people selling the produce they’ve made and/or grown. We don’t bemoan anyone earning a dollar by selling at a market, we just think they should be billed for what they are, and that is, community markets, or something similar.”

Accreditation program

A key element of the VFMA’s charter is managing the Victorian farmers' market accreditation program, an initiative supported by the Victorian Government and designed to ensure the credibility of participants. The program advocates best practice and celebrates the work of genuine farmers, specialty makers and farmers’ markets themselves. “Enforcing accreditation is critical for the ongoing viability of Victoria’s farmers’ markets,” Shields says. “When shopping at a farmers’ market, the public should have confidence in the authenticity of producers; in other words, that the person they are transacting with is the person who grew or made the produce.”

Inspiring and educational

Over the past five years, the VFMA has grown from 100 stallholder members and 19 markets to nearly 800 members and 39 accredited markets. Shields says one of the key reasons underpinning the popularity of farmers’ markets is the public’s growing discomfort with the origin of much of the food they buy from large supermarkets. “The number of miles a lot of food has to travel before it lands on our plate is a real worry. There’s a big swing back to authenticity generally, and sourcing fresh food that’s grown locally is part of that movement.” Shields also believes the experiential aspect of farmers’ markets has a lot going in its favour. “Let’s face it, no-one really enjoys visiting their local ‘big box’ supermarket, but the experience of wandering around an accredited farmers’ market is another matter entirely; taking your time while shopping for produce, chatting with the farmers who have grown the food they are selling. It’s fun, inspiring and educational,” he says.

You can download the PDF version below.

Changes to the Farmers' Market at Abbotsford Convent


In February, Melbourne Farmers Markets will start their delivery of the regular farmers’ market at Abbotsford Convent, and Slow Food Melbourne’s Slow Food Farmers’ Market will launch on their new site in Spotswood.

Both of these groups are not-for-profit organisations (as is the VFMA) and both have successfully run VFMA-accredited farmers’ markets around Melbourne for years.

The VFMA was not involved in the commercial negotiations over the farmers’ market at the Abbotsford Convent. Now that the appointment has been made, our priority is to ensure that both markets are supported to be viable, sustainable and successful shopfronts for our accredited producers and members, and that all the stallholders are treated fairly.

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