LAST year was a good one for the Growers Green Farmers Market.
I am proud we pulled through after so many changes and challenges. We welcomed in a new location, new college principal and a new operating system. It was almost like a rebirth for the market.
I have had a few rebirths over the years: They are not easy at the time, but if you keep your eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel, wonderful seeds can sprout.
As the former South Fremantle Senior High School transformed into Fremantle’s new flagship Fremantle College, the market played a 12-month game of tetris on the campus grounds in order to fit in around the busy renovations.
On completion we were given our new permanent home back on Lefroy Road under the gum trees and what a blessing it is – dappled shade, a picnic area, ping pong and plenty of parking at the TAFE. There is nothing better than happy stallholders and happy customers.
Markets and festivals are like a raft of ducks gliding across the pond. All looks effortless when the gates open, however the frantic paddling that occurs before, during and after is completely bonkers and is the wild energy that I thrive on.
It is truly satisfying to bring a market together and reach the goals of supporting small business owners, creating a connected and happy community, and being part of the arts scene.
These communities are what attracted me to Fremantle and continue to inspire me daily in my Freo life.
Markets are my magic: They are full of characters and you never know when you are going to strike gold; not in the monetary sense, but in the discovery of an incredible product or talented musicians like Twa Corbies and Lez Karski performing under the trees.
I am lucky to know many of my stallholders well, which comes from talking at 6am on a Sunday before coffee. I see them at their best when they are happily chatting to a stall full of buyers.
They could be telling stories of this year’s garlic harvest, or explaining that they started making their much loved German sourdough for themselves and now they sell out every market.
I also get to see them on very difficult days, when someone unplugged their freezer full of handmade ice cream, or their mother passed away, or they are a single parent broken down on Leach Highway with a van of quality cakes and a toddler in full meltdown.
We have our share of ups and downs but it brings us together and makes us stronger as a community.
Recently Albert, Grace’s husband from Della farm, was unwell, and I have been inundated by customers and fellow stallholders asking for updates and contact details. That level of care and concern is heartening.
I lost my dad in 2017 and was very touched when Grace planted a spotted gum in his honour that she grew from seed.
Albert and Grace can tell stories for days about who farmed where, who delivered the fruit to Cottee’s in Fremantle, and that if you didn’t put anchor vinegar in the jams at the royal show the judges wouldn’t consider you.
Grace should know; she has won so many gold medals for her marmalades. My personal favourite is Grace’s beetroot relish – honestly my steak sandwich is now next level.
I am a hopeless lover of real stories: honest people experiencing life fully who work hard doing what they do best – farming, creating, singing, baking and making.
Sometimes the passion comes from adversity: Parvin from Yummee me sells her delicious Persian food with a huge smile and confidence in the quality of her food. Parvin had an amazing career in Iran but after becoming a refugee, she now cooks the food of her homeland.
I know this because outside of the market I have met her for coffee.
You would be surprised at how many stallholders support family back home, such as our papusa ladies.
We first met at the market I started with Ken Posney and Peter Tagliaferri in Kings Square 14 years ago.
They still give me two papusas at the end of every market for my daughter Hannah, who has grown up eating food that would never have come to into our lives if it wasn’t for stallholders’ adversity, resilience and determination to survive and succeed.
Farmer Damian and his animals give kids an experience that will never leave them: holding a rabbit correctly, or seeing a sheep being shorn, all happens under the watchful and caring eye of Damian, who is more educator than farmer these days.
Being a country girl myself who has swept the board of a shearing shed many a time, I am so glad to have this experience happening for our city kids.
Farming, producing, baking and cooking are hard work.
Small business owners work on their product all day, then spend the evening packaging, making labels and packing the van to get up at 3am and hit the road to the market.
Some of our farmers travel from as far as Pemberton or Margaret River.
If you grumble about the extra dollars it may cost you to buy your jam, your (real) sourdough or your organic meat, just take a moment to pat yourself on the back for supporting the work and care that has gone into it.
You may also realise that you feel better all round from shopping at the farmers market. You had a coffee with your neighbour you never get a chance to say hello to, while Fairy Sandie and her troop face paint your child like only Sandie can.
You meet your local politician getting his knives sharpened and get to ask him exactly what’s happening in your area.
You can taste Tom the Greek’s spanakopita and be transported to a village in Greece and the next thing you know you’ve also bought his custard pie “Galatoboureko” and another coffee and declared to the family that this is our Sunday ritual.
As I reflect on 2018 I feel grateful I stuck with my passion for markets; not only do I get to host and enjoy Growers Green Farmers Market every Sunday, I also get to do it at Fairbridge Festival in the City of Cockburn, and at many other WA events and festivals.
This year already looks incredibly exciting with many new opportunities opening up for locals, small business and creatives.
The Growers Green Farmers Markets is held on Sundays, 8am-noon, on Lefroy Road at Fremantle College.
by KYLIE WHEATLEY