The Belgrave Farmers Market began last year with great promise, but after a few markets and a relocation, it was put on hold for a while. Now they are back. I spoke with Gourav and Liz from the steering committee to find out what’s been happening behind the scenes and what to expect from the new, improved market.
The Belgrave Farmers Market was started a year ago at Mater Christi School. Unfortunately after a few markets, there was a slight hiccup when the key person that was running it relocated from the area so it was closed down. A few dedicated locals realised the desire for a farmers market in Belgrave and a new steering committee was formed early this year.
Farmers markets require 3 simple, but key ingredients – patrons, stall-holders and access. We reviewed the first avatar, and determined that the market suffered on all 3 counts – sustained lack of patronage, insufficient stall-holders (especially fresh produce) and the lack of adequate parking and ease of access to the marketplace.
The reformed version of the market (which started in June) changed some of this – we relocated the market to St Thomas More Primary School, which provides a lot more parking and is closer to many amenities; and we had an organic produce stall. That helped prove that a market could work – patronage was loyal, and some really good producers were willing to participate – however, we were unable to attract stallholders in sufficient numbers to the market. This is due to the fact that there are plenty of farmers markets in existence, and consequently many potential stallholders have conflicting commitments. As a team, we realised that we did not have sufficiently deep networks or relationships to promote the market to potential stall-holders, and needed someone who brought those networks with them. We decided not to risk the market, still in its infancy, from getting a reputation of being too small, and took a break over Winter to review our options.
Luckily we have had Regional Farmers Market come on board to assist – it is an organisation started by Peter Arnold, but now actively managed by Claire and Melissa. They are almost the pioneers of the current form of Farmers Markets in Melbourne and have been doing this for 20 years. They manage farmers markets across the city, among others, the Bayside, Heathmont, Beaumaris and Williamstown Farmers markets – and bring a wealth of experience and the right connections that, we believe, can build and grow our market. They are responsible for getting stall holders through their large data base. There will be over 20 stall holders at the new re-launch on 23rd October.
One of the other key decisions that the committee made was to evaluate moving the Market to a single day – on the 4th Sunday of every month. The fabulous Big Dreams Market is held on the 2nd Sunday, and the gap of a fortnight should give sufficient ‘breathing room’ to both the events. In addition, there will be sufficient variation in the composition of the stallholders to be able to keep the visitors (i.e. You!) engaged and returning every fortnight.
We would like to see the Belgrave Farmers Market become the “go-to” market for producers in the Dandenongs and the Yarra Ranges, and for it to become a hub for organic and bio-dynamic producers in the Eastern suburbs. Obviously, this will take some time to accomplish – but I believe that we have the right ‘mix’ of people and attitude in the Hills, and in our new Market managers, to see this through. We’re also looking for locals who are interested in the journey forward to join the Belgrave Farmers Market steering committee. They just need to bring their enthusiasm and a ‘can-do’ attitude.
Belgrave Farmers Market
Sunday 23rd October 9am-2pm
St Thomas More Primary School, Reynolds Lane, Belgrave