The slow food movement has picked up pace around Maitland with many farmers and hobby producers coming together to create this awesome community of people who are passionate about growing food in a sustainable way.
So it’s no surprise that the rise and rise of the Maitland produce markets has seen them evolve into the Slow Food Earth Markets, the first of its kind in Australia. Slow Food Hunter Valley Leader, Amorelle Dempster gives us the low down on what to expect from the twice monthly markets that bring the farm gate to the city.
Bringing a little bit of European village life to downtown Maitland, the Earth Market is about providing a venue for locals to interact and purchase local produce from local food producers. Here, it is about getting Maitland to rally behind its farmers, to get consumers to think about where their food actually comes from and do their bit against food waste.
Nobody thought Maitland was ready for this kind of a thing, but the markets at The Levee have been a hit. On the first and third Thursday of each month, active farmers from properties within 100km of Maitland set up at The Levee, display their produce and a little bit about their farms which often acts as great conversation starter.
Amorelle says ‘It’s also about building capacity within the farmers’ network for them to mentor each other in becoming more biodiverse.’ ‘It’s lovely to see, now our farmers are diversifying, some who might have planted rows of one type of pumpkin, are now growing 32 varieties.’
Slow food is all about biodiversity in food systems.
‘We have experienced quite a significant amount of change in a short period of time and it’s heartening to see the slow food movement working even at a backyard level too’, she said.
‘The thing that makes me want to cry is when I get stopped in the street by someone that says ‘because of you we now have a veggie patch at home’.
Through these markets people are connecting with farmers and they are realising they can do it themselves to a degree at home, it’s working brilliantly at a community level.
For Amorelle, the slow food movement kind of chose her 20 years ago after she read an article that outlined its ethos as simply, providing good, clean food for all.
‘As a kid I was always growing things and my life has been growing and cooking’.
The catalyst came in March 2016 when, after a storm spoiled the skin of their pumpkin crop, Maitland farmers were stuck with the plight of 20 tonnes of pumpkins ending up as food waste.
Compelled to act, Amorelle rallied the help of Maitland City Council and held a pop up pumpkin stall at The Levee, effectively saving the farmers livelihood. That day will go down in history as the great pumpkin rescue.
‘People queued for hours, it was so hot we provided water and at one stage we ran out of pumpkins, so had volunteers doing runs between the farms and the market’, Amorelle recalled.
That’s when the idea to introduce a slow food market to Maitland was born. Run on good will, good ideas and volunteers, Maitland’s Slow Food Earth Market is brimming with local producers selling all manner of seasonal wares from potatoes, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, barn laid eggs, black garlic, sourdough breads, olive oils and other delights. Keep an eye out for upcoming seasonal offerings and head to The Levee website or Facebook page for details on the Earth Markets.
Story by Tess Campbell.