14 April 2023

Reaching 10 years is a fruitful achievement for this Moruya farmers market

| Claire Sams
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Vegetables for sale at SAGE Farmers Market

The SAGE Farmers Market has built up a strong base of local support since it started in January 2013. Photo: The SAGE Project and Farmers Market Moruya Facebook.

A Eurobodalla farmers market is celebrating 10 years of connecting farmers to consumers as it grew into success from a four-week trial run.

While the first SAGE Farmers Market took place in January 2013, the anniversary celebrations were postponed and will be taking place on Tuesday, 18 April.

Stuart Whitelaw, one of the founders of Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE), Mr Whitelaw currently serves as a member of the SAGE Executive Committee and the Farmers Market Committee.

The markets started with a four-week trial run in 2013, featuring twelve stalls. It now attracts up to 30 growers and artisans each week. It has also twice won the Delicious Magazine Outstanding Farmers Market Award.

“People tend to look back at what SAGE has done and think, ‘Oh, you’ve got this masterplan’, but it wasn’t that,” he said.

While tourists came to the earliest markets – and continue to stop by each week – locals are a strong base of support for the market.

“The South Coast, generally, is one of those places where if people want something, they really support the hell out of it.”

“That’s what happened to us – word just flashed around the district.”

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SAGE Farmers Market is known for its unusual start time – unlike many other farmers markets that run on the weekends, it is held from 3 pm on Tuesday afternoons.

“What the growers had told us is that they liked to pick in the morning and sell in the afternoon,” Mr Whitelaw said.

Stallholders are limited to producers and artisans from the Moruya area, selling the results of their food and food-related hard work.

“That was the basis on which we started – a very simple rule [of] you’ve got to be the person who grew it.”

Customers queue up for vegetables at SAGE Farmers Market.

The market has become well known as a place where locals can do their weekly shop. Photo: The SAGE Project and Farmers Market Moruya Facebook.

That focus on Eurobodalla producers had been present in the organisation and running of the market from the very first day and contributed to its lasting appeal, he said.

“It’s a very local market, and I think that’s one of the reasons people really respond to it.”

“[Market-goers] can drive over the bridge and they can see see ‘Oh yes, there’s the market gardens, right there, these are the people I just brought my stuff from!'”

Since its inception, the market has become well-known as a place where people can do their weekly shop, swap recipes and have a chat.

“That’s where I buy 90% of the food that we eat during the week,” Mr Whitelaw said.

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Not even times of crisis managed to stop the market from playing a vital role in the community.

“During COVID and the bushfires, it was just amazing the role that the market played.”

SAGE Farmers Market helped to keep the community fed during the Black Summer bushfires, when highways were closed, and also operated an online market to keep sales going during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Regular and first-time market-goers are invited to come down for the 10th anniversary celebrations on 18 April.

“I suspect some kind of cake might be in order!”

“We really wanted to have a think about our anniversary and all that – and we’re all just so flat out over Christmas that we didn’t have time to organise anything.”

Mr Whitelaw said the future of the SAGE Farmers Market will be based around the team continuing to support current and future producers.

“[We want] to keep on getting more stalls, more diversity.”

One of their initiatives is the Stepping Stone Farm, a farm that is intended to teach would-be farmers the tricks of the trade.

“We want to keep growing the growers.”

SAGE Farmers Market is held every Tuesday from 3 pm at Riverside Park in Moruya. More information can be found on its Facebook page.

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