We noticed that most of the comments on the Examiner’s online edition were in favour of the market going ahead as usual and understood that no disrespect was intended.
What was absent from the debate was any consideration of what it would mean to stallholders to cancel or even postpone the market by just one day.
As small farm producers ourselves we have more of an insider view, and believe the decision has everything to do with how small agriculture or food sector producers operate.
It’s easy to think of a small producer’s business as a ‘lifestyle’ option. My word, I wish it were the case that we’re sitting back on our small acreage admiring the view and drinking artisan-brewed beer! The reality is that we all graft very hard for our buck, and we have a full and heavily scheduled week.
And that’s the key.
Farmers’ markets need to be regular, as the Australian Farmers’ Market Association will tell you – not just for customers, but for producers too. Those people running stalls on Saturday aren’t twiddling their thumbs for the other days of the week. They’re growing, packing, pruning, making and baking, fermenting, slaughtering, butchering, curing, pickling and smoking stuff. And I’m certain I’ve missed many processes out here.
Behind all that industriousness is more industry – and a whole network of other suppliers, bookings and arrangements: pickers and packers, commercial kitchens, deliveries of ingredients, butchers and abattoirs, fishing vessels. Again, I’m certain that merely skims the surface.
Moving all this planning, scheduling and logistics forwards even by 24 hours is a big deal. More to the point, moving a market day forward for small producers whose product may not have a long shelf life – vegetables or fish for example – has a huge impact, possibly on what the produce looks like and whether or not it sells.
These things may not be such a big consideration for Salamanca market, whose organisers moved their market forward by a day – Salamanca is a mixed market, and not exclusively fresh produce.
One of the aims of farmers’ markets is that they bring the customer fresh food direct from the paddock, farm, kitchen. That takes some doing.
So when the organisers of Harvest Market Launceston were considering whether to go ahead with the market, cancel or move it, they weren’t making a decision quickly, lightly or unthinkingly. There’s no doubt it was a carefully considered one, taking into account the expectation of customers and the needs of producers, for whom the market is the vital end point in the supply chain.
Day, time, regularity and consistency are all critical consideration and the committee of Harvest know that. It’s central to the AFMA code of practice, which the Harvest Market committee has worked very closely with, and this is one of the things which has made this market such a success, because that code of practice is a well-engineered document intended to enable successful markets.
Thus Harvest Market has become an asset for Launceston, a place for locals to connect with producers and buy top notch produce, and a drawcard for tourists.
It doesn’t trouble us to miss an Anzac Day service this year in order to take our stall to Harvest Market. For what it’s worth, our children have sung in their school choir at Anzac Day services in previous years, and Oliver’s great grandfather was a decorated serviceman.
We believe we pay tribute year-round, in the way we raise our children, in the way we talk to them about wars past and presents, and encourage them to be respectful of the past and mindful of the future. So if the market runs, we will be there on Anzac Day this year, and no disrespect is intended.