The driving force behind the formation of the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association, and its first President, was food writer and marketing consultant Jane Adams. She was the recipient of the Geoffrey Roberts Award (1997), an international fellowship that facilitated her research of American farmers’ markets. Returning from her study tour, she gave her first workshop on how to start a farmers’ market in Orange, NSW in 1999. Adams continued to deliver workshops and was instrumental in introducing farmers’ markets to rural, regional and urban communities. The Association was formed in 2003.
The farmers’ market movement had been growing overseas for nearly two decades before it gained traction here in Australia. An Australian report into farmers’ markets in 2004 quoted overseas figures of more than 3500 such markets in the USA and 450 in the UK having been developed since the early 1980s. Adams worked with community groups from Albany to Auckland to establish farmers’ markets in regional and urban centres in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association is a voluntary organisation and continues to be a voice for the farmers’ market movement, promoting best practice and providing training and support. The AFMA website describes the purpose of the association as follows:
The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association (AFMA) is a voluntary organisation convened in 2003 to create a networking entity committed to supporting the development and growth of best-practice and sustainable farmers’ markets across Australia.
The Association has strict rules as to what constitutes a Farmers’ Market. They state that:
The Farmers’ Market is defined as a predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and specialty food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added specialty foods for human consumption and plant products directly to customers.
By 2005, farmers’ markets in Australia were turning over around $40 million per year.