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Food Security From Farmers Markets

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 3rd June 2008- For Immediate Release


Food Security From Farmers Markets

Food security was the opening theme of the second national conference of Farmers’ Markets New Zealand Incorporated held in Blenheim last weekend.

Opening speaker Sue Kedgley from the NZ Green Party painted a well researched and sometimes bleak picture for the future of world food availability and prices and what this would mean for New Zealanders. Farmers Markets were put forward as part of the antidote to rising food prices. Ms Kedgley praised farmers markets as a “diversified, low carbon food economy, where dependence was reduced on oil and global food prices”.

The idea of becoming a “locavore” was further expanded by international Farmers’ Market experts Jane Adams (Australia) and Bernie Prince (USA). Farmers' Markets are often seen as the centre of a community’s involvement with its food production and can support other initiatives such as growing food in schools or encouraging edible gardening.

Jane Adams (Chair of the Australian Farmers Market Association) updated delegates on the growth and development of the Australian Farmers Market movement. This included news of local food system developments beyond Farmers' Markets. 'Herd Share' and CSA farming are growing across the Tasman as sustainable farming practices are supported by willing local consumers

Bernie Prince, co-founder of FRESHFARM MARKETS which runs eight farmers markets throughout The Chesapeake Bay afforded the audience a peak into the possible future of the NZ movement. The impact these markets have had on local farmers is well marked, reinforcing the phrase “No Farms, No Food”.

About half of New Zealand’s Farmers Markets were represented at the conference. They included some of the largest such as the Otago Farmers Market with an average of 60 stall owners to the Purau Farmers Market on Banks Peninsula which feeds its community with local produce from 1 combined stall. “Both are legitimate examples of a farmers market”, reflected chair of FMNZ Chris Fortune. “That is, they are food only markets, where the stall owners are the people who have grown or made the food. There are no resellers, and they reflect the food of the region they operate in”

An early morning live phone link up was made with the country’s oldest Farmers’ Market in Whangerei where 6000 customers were expected to turn up to buy local fruit and vegetables. The link was listened to by some of the country’s newest farmers markets such as Geraldine in South Canterbury. Robert Bradley entertained the conference over breakfast with his down to earth reflections on what has made Whangerei Growers’ Market so successful since its launch 10 years ago

Advice from retail guru and key speaker John Stanley was keenly consumed. Mr Stanley, who has just returned to Australasia after a world-wide tour talking to farmers ’ market organisers and stall owners, offered pragmatic, useful suggestions about improving both stalls and markets. Emphasis was placed on staying ahead of the game as supermarkets copy some of the visual features found in farmers markets in an attempt to reposition themselves as authentic and ‘steal’ customers back from the growing number of Farmers’ Markets across the world.

Authenticity was also discussed at length by the markets represented at the conference. It was hoped that funding recently granted through the “Buy Kiwi Made” initiative would allow a certification scheme to be implemented for New Zealand Farmers Markets to ensure customer confidence continued and to afford genuine Farmers’ Markets a degree of protection.

Authenticity also exuded from this year’s winner of the “golden hoe” award for best conference speaker. Jonny Schwass from Restaurant Schwass in Christchurch captured the audience with his explanation of what food meant to him. His respect for everything he cooked, his customers and staff was obvious. This respect extended to a discussion about renaming pork as pig on his menu to drive home the connection between our food and where it comes from.

Spokesperson for FMNZ, Ian Thomas, said that Farmers’ Markets were in fine fettle. Lively debate, frequent disagreement over details and passionate support for the cause of local food indicated that the future for Farmers’ Markets was exciting and in the right hands. Current and on going concerns over the precarious global situation of food and the more local effects of rising prices has led to a growing number of consumers choosing to shop local. Thomas said that by simply picking up your bag or basket and shopping at you local Farmers Market everyone could take a small step that would make a big difference”

ends

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