Next weekend (September 15th – 16th) our enthusiastic and progressive foodies of the Red Gum Food Group will be celebrating the first anniversary of the increasingly popular Koondrook Barham Farmers Market (KBFM). Just over our historic 1904 lift span bridge on the Victorian side of the Murray River, sits the picturesque James Park in Koondrook; home to the local farmers market on the third Sunday of every month.
What began as an idea a little over a year ago between Katrina Myers (Barham Avocados) and Lauren Mathers (Bundarra Berkshires), has grown into a thriving market that enables local producers to promote and sell their products directly to the public.
Importantly for our future, these farmers and stallholders are raising the profile of the Barham/Koondrook district as an area that produces high quality food products and puts our region squarely on the food map as a destination. This in turn, boosts our local economy through ever-increasing visitor numbers as well as promoting local industries such as rice and citrus, to the wider world.
In the past twelve months the KBFM has grown from an initial group of less than ten local producers and interested locals to a stallholder base of thirty-three and growing. It’s great to see our local schools involved with both Koondrook and Barham Primary Schools manning their school garden produce stalls every month and Barham High School students setting up an impressive (and hard to resist) cupcake stall at regular intervals throughout the year.
A number of individual producers have won awards in the past twelve months for their products. Ones that I am aware of include:
Pacdon Park – Gold Medal for their Haggis at the 2011 ABC Delicious Awards.
Restdown Wines – Bronze Medal for their 2011 Semillon at the NSW Small Winemakers Wine Show.
Barham Avocados – Medallist at the 2012 ABC Delicious Produce Awards “From the Earth” section.
Bundarra Berkshires – Gold Medal for their pork schnitzel in the “Quick and Easy” pork section at the 2012 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards and a finalist at the 2012 ABC Delicious Produce Awards.
Star attraction at next weekend’s KBFM anniversary celebrations is Yorkshire born, now Melbourne based celebrity chef and patron of Victorian Farmers Market Association (VFMA), Matt Wilkinson. Matt has worked in a number of award-winning restaurants in Australia, made guest appearances on TV’s MasterChef, written a fabulous cookbook titled “Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables” and is the co-owner/chef at the Pope Joan café in Melbourne’s East Brunswick.
An extremely strong advocate of farmers markets, local and seasonal produce and dealing directly with farmers, Matt will be conducting an adult’s seasonal food shopping class in addition to hosting this month’s children’s cooking class at the market. Aiming to highlight how we can shop more efficiently with seasonal produce and at the same time minimise the amount of food we waste on a weekly basis… (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has discovered new and interesting life forms in the refrigerator and then lamented the waste of good food gone bad?)
Establishing and growing an event like our local farmers market is similar to getting a profitable business up and running. Keeping passionate and staying committed during the early formative years can be a hard road to travel but those people and communities who stay the course will reap the rewards in the long term.