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Does the farmer want a market?

by Katrina Phelps

Fresh farmers markets produce.Walking around an array of appealing sights and smells in a swarming shed with a fresh coffee in one hand and fudge sample in another, seems to be a popular way to spend a Saturday morning in the Barossa Valley.

The shed is actually a weekly farmers market which is certainly popular with visitors, but is it a priority for local farmers?

A new research project being undertaken in UniSA’s School of Commerce will explore why participation rates in such markets by small to medium farmers is actually quite low in Australia.

Researchers on the project, Dr Valerie Kupke and Dr Geoff Page, say there is real interest by communities to establish their own farmers markets and when expressions of interest are called for from potential stallholders there are plenty of applicants from value adders who make products like jam, cakes and biscuits, but generally there are not applicants from the farmers who produce the staples.

“The farmers are not lining up to supply, and a farmers market will not thrive without supplying all the staples,” Dr Page said.

“There has been significant publicity in rural media about stallholder shortages and still applicants are not coming forward.

“So we are going to try to find out what the issues are that prevent farmers growing for farmers markets.

“We hope to provide means for farmers markets’ managers to overcome barriers to participation by local producers; and also raise awareness of the potential of the markets as alternative pathways to viability for local producers.”

Dr Kupke says while internationally there is a body of work on farmers markets, research within Australia has so far been very limited.

“The Australian Federal Government has drawn up a national food plan which promotes farmers markets as an important means of ensuring Australia’s food security, quality, affordability and sustainability,” Dr Kupke said.

“The plan also recognises that the city still depends on rural Australia for a great deal of its sustenance; economically, environmentally and socially, and that in this context, farmers markets can act as important points of contact between city and country, creating support for and interest in the rural sector.

“There are lots of benefits, yet many farmers in Australia remain outside this particular food services sector.”

The project is funded by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) UK Research Trust. The RICS Research Trust has an established reputation for supporting research related to urban and rural land use across the world.

Dr Kupke said this project ties in closely with the RICS research agenda of encouraging a greater integration of research between the rural sector and urban areas.

The year-long project will focus on two case study areas – the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley.

For more information about the project, please contact Dr Geoff Page on geoff.page@unisa.edu.au or phone 08 8302 0855; or Dr Valerie Kupke on valerie.kupke@unisa.edu.au or phone 08 8302 0440.