The most far-reaching thing Harvest did for us was to stabilise our business. Before becoming stallholders there, we tried a few other markets with little success. We supported a couple of new markets, at Lilydale and Deloraine, where ultimately there just wasn’t the population or demand to support the markets or our stall.
And we tried Evandale. Whilst Evandale market is great when you’re after a vintage teapot, it’s not the right place to sell gourmet food products. Stallholders are selling all sorts of detritus, and people go there for a browse and a day out, not to do their weekly shop. They’re not interested in buying gourmet sausages, and they’re not thinking about ethical farming. Far from it. They’re enjoying their Dagwood dogs.
The market keeps our name in front of a growing customer base, enables us to add people to our e-mailing list, and gets us known. We promote the premium retailers in northern Tasmania who sell our stock and contribute to the food landscape and economy.
The value of bringing producers and customers together, which is what a true farmers’ market does, cannot be understated and it has benefits for both. The customer can speak to us about how we produce our bacon and sausages, and gets to know that we raise the pigs ourselves, farm them free range outside in groups. We can let them know that Oliver makes our bacon and sausages himself, and there’s nothing he loves more than a yarn to someone about how he does it. We don’t use preservatives, and we don’t put very much in the sausages other than the flavoursome shoulder pork – and we often talk to people about why. (Because it’s so tasty!)
Many products at Harvest are exceptionally high in value. When there’s a quiet moment on the stall, I do some of our family food shopping at the market, particularly fruit and veg. I know I can get better leeks for a better price, and a two kilo bag of apples for way less than anywhere else, and I can look for the small ones that fit in lunchboxes. I buy squid tubes (cheap as chips) and a fillet of some white fish from Georgetown Seafoods, and get two dinners out of that easily – curry usually. That leaves me a bit left over for some proper bread and one of the best coffees in Launceston.
Every so often we discuss ways in which our business might grow and changes we might make. It’s hard to see a time when there wouldn’t be value us doing Harvest. The organisers are to be congratulated for their care in generating a genuine market that so closely follows the go-to guide by the Farmers’ Market Association. That’s why it’s so successful – and long may it continue.