Capital Region Farmers Market, or where to buy great produce while helping farmers and the environment.
The Capital Regions Farmers Market has been offering fresh produce to Canberrans and a business opportunity for local farmers and artisans for over fifteen years.
We went there to speak with the ACT business owners and share what these four hours of weekend sales mean for their enterprises and the local community.
If anything stood out consistently among farmer and vendor testimonies, it was the huge positive impact these Saturday markets have upon their businesses and professional lives.
One of the fruit stand owners present at EPIC for over fifteen years affirmed, “this is our business. We don’t send to Sydney, Newcastle or Brisbane anymore. We didn’t get treated well, didn’t get enough for our produce.”
The long-time farmer pointed out that he earns around ten times more by selling his produce directly to customers in Canberra than what he got from dealing with a major supermarket chain, transitioning from about 80 cents to 9 dollars per kilogram on some items.
Quentin, who has been selling coffee since the inception of the marketplace, said that the steady stream of income each Saturday has helped his business stay aloft and grow over the years, allowing him to hire a number of new employees. He added that his presence at EPIC has also got the name of his business across the city.
One of the flower stand owners agreed that selling directly to the public grants them far better margins than selling wholesale. He also talked about direct interaction with customers.
“I really enjoy dealing with the public, it gets us out of the production area, we meet a lot of people, and there’s a real community spirit, which is important for us,” he said.
Tobias Kurnick has had a stall at EPIC for about ten years. “This market is crucial for our business. We have a relatively small farm, and we wouldn’t make enough income solely with livestock. We needed to complement our earnings with higher value produce, and Canberra has been the perfect place for that.”
Mick Ordeno, who owns a veggie store and has been present each Saturday for over fifteen years, made a similar statement. “If we weren’t here, we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills, we can’t survive on the farm without it. One of the greatest things in Canberra, and one of the best markets in Australia as far as we’re concerned”
A group of young vendors who own a meat store shared, “We’ve been at these markets for five years. We sell nearly all our produce through here, and it gets our name out to customers from which we can leverage as well. We’ve had a look at other farmers markets, but don’t really compare to this one, whatever they’re doing here it seems to work well.”
Greg owns a free-range chicken farm and has been at the Capital Region Farmer Markets for seven weeks. “So far they’re good, stall holders are friendly, and I’m selling a good volume of eggs. I just need to bring enough along because I’m usually sold off by ten!”
“Selling across markets means a lot to me in the end, because by taking out the middleman, just a dollar or two extra per dozen represent a lot in terms of margins,” Greg said. “This means that I don’t necessarily need to work 80 to 100 hours per week, and can potentially employ more people to actually help me down at the farm so I can live some sort of life outside the farm as well.”
Mourine Reagan, who established her enterprise less than a year ago, hopes her new stand will help kickstart her business. “The markets are fantastic because I don’t have to pay rent for a whole shop. They give me an opportunity to develop my business, and although it’s hard work, I could say I make a basic living out of it.”
Another point vendors consistently raised was how their presence enabled a chance to get immediate feedback on their products from clients.
Besides the opportunity to purchase quality fresh produce at competitive prices, it is worth visiting EPIC for a good Saturday breakfast, where you can find some of the best pies in Canberra among several enjoyable options.
There is also a strong ‘bring your own bag’ (or trolley) culture across the markets, which alongside the reduced carbon emissions from local rather than imported or inter-estate products, makes this a good ecological option for everyday shopping.
Plus, apart from helping regional farmers earn a dignified living, revenue that goes into small businesses is more propense to be directly reincorporated into the local economy than if it ends up in large supermarket chains.
Overall, the Capital Region Farmers Market makes for an enjoyable and positive experience that every Canberran should try out for themselves.
The market is located in the Exhibition Park in Canberra, on the south side of Mitchell, and goes on from 7:30 am till 11:30 am every Saturday.