At the second National Australian Farmers’ Markets Conference in Albury Wodonga, the first substantive Australian research into farmers’ markets was presented. It put the estimated value of produce sold through farmers’ markets at around $40 million. The report was compiled for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) now known as Agrifutures.
The farmers’ market movement in Australia largely owes its origins to Jane Adams, a Sydney-based specialist in agribusiness who undertook a study tour in the United States. She gave a series of workshops and by 2002 there were 35 farmers’ markets operating across Australia.
At the first conference, held in Bathurst in 2002 it was decided to form the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association. The Association’s formal definition of a farmers’ market is:
‘A predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community, at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added processed food products directly to customers.’
The number of farmers’ markets continued to grow and by 2004 the RIRDC research found more than 70 markets across Australia. Forty-six per cent were in rural towns, 26 per cent in regional centres, 17 per cent in
suburbs and 11 per cent in inner metro areas. The size of the markets varied significantly with those in rural towns averaging between 10 and 30 stalls, those in regional centres 10 to 25 stalls, in the suburbs 20 to 40, and 50 to 65 stalls in the inner metropolitan areas.
The survey found a wide range of products on sale at the markets. While nearly all sold things like fruit and vegetables, jams, baked goods and eggs, other offerings included meat and fish, plants, honey and oils and, in some cases, emu products, worm farms, live animals and more.
Around two-thirds of the markets had a producer-only policy, ensuring customers were buying from the person who grew or made the produce on sale. About a third of markets were restricted to food and just over half limited stallholders to locals.
The 2004 report identified a wide range of benefits farmers’ markets brought to producers, consumers and the community.