Rita Warleigh has enough interest in the proposed Goulburn Farmers Markets to set a launch date of Saturday, 28 October.
A volunteer project officer with a record for community projects, Rita has 27 expressions of interest from producers including people who grow veggies, make artisan bread, have free-range chooks and produce organic lamb within a 100-kilometre radius of Goulburn.
The market will open at 8 am and close at 11 am. Rita has booked the Peden Pavilion at the Goulburn Recreation Ground for an initial period of six months. Markets will be held on the last Saturday of the month to avoid clashing with other Goulburn markets.
Rita and her volunteers want to create a community vibe at the markets with local entertainers among the stallholders, good coffee, small workshops on how to grow food, beekeeping and making compost. Backyard veggie growers will be invited to sell their produce at the organiser’s stall too.
“We have visited a lot of other markets and talked to other people,” Rita said. “These people include stallholders who sell out regularly.”
Most of her interaction has been with Moruya’s SAGE market, run by a not-for-profit community organisation and working with a strong network of supporters, volunteers, growers, food producers and businesses who make up the local food community.
“Moruya markets open at 2 pm,” Rita said. “People are queueing up from 1 pm in front of the stalls. The bell rings for the sales to start and most (produce) is sold within an hour. So that’s kind of what we are expecting,” she said.
“People will come there (to Goulburn’s market) for their fruit and veg and whatever else, breakfast hopefully, then go off and start the rest of their day,” Rita said.
“We were hoping for twice monthly, but at the moment we are going for once a month and hope that it will progress to twice a month, or even weekly. We have to test the water,” she said.
She has received $2000 from the Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s events program for venue hire and marketing. “They are hoping it will attract visitors,” Rita said.
Volunteers have written a business plan, initiated social media posts and are building a website.
The farmers market stipulates produce must come directly from the person growing it. No intermediate agents will be admitted. If a grower applies from outside the 100-kilometre Goulburn radius, and the market doesn’t offer their produce already, they will be allowed to sell their food. “Apples from Young, for instance, would be fantastic,” Rita said.
Whether the farmers market continues beyond six months will depend on the response from the Goulburn community. “Everyone seems to be very excited about it and really want to see it,” Rita said. “A few people have expressed interest in helping out,” she said.
Rita has lived in Goulburn for 10 years, and before that in Taralga for five years and has been a volunteer with International Volunteers for Peace for more than 35 years.
For the past five years, she has helped the Goulburn Show with an international team of volunteers who put up all the infrastructure and dismantle it after the event. Volunteers from Laos who helped at the show will return in October to help at the inaugural farmers market.
As well as the show in recent years, IVP volunteers completed another project that went for four years at Taralga centred on native habitat regeneration.
Coming from all over the world volunteers live and work together on projects for several weeks.
“Over the last two years international travel has become much more difficult, so everything has slowed down,” Rita said. “We are reevaluating where we are and who we are and decided to do more local projects. This (farmers market) is one of those.”
International Volunteers for Peace, which began in Europe after World War I, believes bringing volunteers together to live and work teaches them collaboration, tolerance and international communication skills. The aim is to create pathways to peace in the hope of avoiding war.
“I went to a project in Italy in 1987, came across (IVP) by accident, for me it ticked all the boxes, I was already involved in environmental work,” Rita said. “Then I came back and started it in Australia and have been involved for 35 years.”
This will be her first farmers market. “It is going to be a fantastic six months, if it continues beyond then, absolutely fantastic,” Rita said.