A new farmers’ market for the west. Launching August 8th
When adapting to the “New Normal” and offering an essential service during a pandemic becomes just one of life’s little challenges. Same, same but different Greek philosopher Heraclitus, has been quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” That is never more true than right now for life in Melbourne, and especially the western suburbs.
Recent events have taught us all that life constantly changes, often daily. Yet even in the middle of dramatic upheaval on a global scale there is always a core of life which remains constant. Marketplaces adapt to daily disruptions and stop, consider, recalibrate and move on. The farmers market scene is no different, it’s core purpose is one thing which has remained a constant for time immemorial. While creating a buyer/seller relationship is a constant at the heart of its purpose is simply the provision of food direct to customers.
At the heart of the Slow Food movement’s message is a belief in every persons’ right to healthy, nutritious food and the right of those producing that food to make a fair living. As such creating a space for producers to sell direct to their customers makes perfect sense. This is then an opportunity for dialogue, which means learning and adapting happens on both sides of the equation. Farmers get to understand what their customers want and shoppers learn about the produce they are purchasing.
For those of us who work to bring a little of the country into the city on a regular basis there has always been change. For Slow Food Melbourne, starting a market at the Abbotsford Convent and being in the business of connecting farmer to customer seemed a no-brainer. Building on the success of a food festival which sought to excite Melbourne about the food options on their doorstep, it was a natural progression. But time moves on, things change, the market place comes of age and customers expectations grow. So our little market, like grandfather’s axe, which despite several new handles and axeheads was still the same axe, proves itself to be a constant but at the same time different.
While a change of location alters the surrounds it can also offer a new attitude, and way of thinking. So it was making a move from the inner east to the west. The ethos is the same but the audience has changed. Moving to Spotswood created a new audience, so we recalibrated, adapted to a new site, introduced many new producers to the market space and had a dynamic and ever changing group of workers and volunteers. We proved our resilience many times in the process. But just when you think you know what you are doing life throws you a curve ball. We thought we had things settled and sorted but we were never expecting to have to gear up to operate during a pandemic. Rethink, Reset.
Selling food is an essential service and even more relevant and important when health issues arise in a community. So we adapted again, developed operating guidelines to keep customers and producers safe including hand wash stations, social distancing protocols, cleaning regimes and hand sanitiser at entry & exit points. Farmers adapted quickly with new rules about not touching produce, cash free transactions, single shoppers only at stalls and protocols to keep social distance between buyer and seller. And so everyone stayed in business. It is a whole new world but we are still trading while offering shoppers clean, local produce in a safe shopping environment in the fresh air.
We had always planned to open new markets, to eventually operate markets with a weekly spread across the western suburbs. We were already in discussions with Happy Receptions when the pandemic hit. Yet another change to our plans and to the hospitality industry. What to do? Give up or soldier on? We could see how much shoppers appreciated the opportunity to not just get out of the house to shop for food but to also connect with their community. So West Footscray? Yes? Or No? Of course it had to be a yes.
The WeFo moniker adopted by West Footscray locals sums up the affection for their suburb and sense of community. The Slow Food family has always believed in the “think global, act local” mantra so when an initial misreading turned into a slogan we grabbed it. So SloFo WeFo was born.
We had been approached several years ago by a group from the local dog park who thought the one thing their local area was missing was a farmers’ market. It may have taken several years to come to fruition but West Footscray we have finally delivered. Please come and support the fabulous farmers who are making the effort to keep us all fed.
Stick with our basic Covid19 operating guidelines and help keep yourselves, your families and our farmers safe.:
Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser regularly
Come and shop one person at a time
Maintain social distancing
But more importantly, do come and shop. Support your local market and help it thrive. Remember your dollar is your vote for the food system you want for yourselves and the next generation.