As owners of a small farm and food business, Langdale Farm, we’ve been hanging out our shingle (or in our case, our flying papier-mache pig) fortnightly at Harvest for a couple of years.
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.
Harvest Market made our business viable. We needed a single outlet that we went to regularly, where we would find the right sort of customers for our product, and enough of them. That means people who think about where their meat or other food comes from and are concerned about eating right, and perhaps supporting local producers.
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.
In talking to anyone who will listen about the food landscape and culture of Tasmania, all the stallholders at Harvest are acting as ambassadors for our state and one of the future key drivers of its economic success – food and beverage tourism.
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!)
Purchase our premium rare breed pork from Harvest and you’ll pay roughly the same price to what you’d pay for a comparable product elsewhere. There’s no denying our sausages are higher in price than others, but they’re not just any old banger. If you have one of our sausages hot off the barbecue, you’re eating a product that has been generated right here in the Tamar Valley from birth, through growth and manufacture and finally cooked and served by two people who have ensured quality and care for you through the entire supply chain.
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.
We have reaped the benefits of being being stallholders in so many other ways too. There’s quite a bit of banter between stallies, and it’s a wonderful community to be part of. We’ve learned much from others about generating sales, and adjusting our product lines seasonally. We’ve made new friends - and so have our children. We take them with us and like them to understand that this is one of the ways in which we generate our family’s income. They do specific jobs on the stall for pocket money, and are each given ten dollars to feed themselves for the day and are encouraged to buy sausage rolls as well as chocolate croissants (partly because I want there to be some chocolate croissants left when I get to Sandy’s Sourdough).
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.