On a cool summer’s morning in Albany, Western Australia (no "cool" and "summer" is not misprint), Uncle S. woke the kids and I early.
It was time for Uncle S's almost religious pilgrimage to the Albany Farmers Market, a truly festive occasion where farmers and producers come from only close surrounds for the locals to sample their products.
The idea is that the food is grown and produced locally. Really locally. So everything you taste and buy there has been grown, reared, caught or made within a 150km radius of rhe Great Southern Region of Western Australia.
The 'fresh food people'* in me loved the concept of that.
We were all starving, and just as well, because there were a cornucopia of edible blessings on offer.
But where to start? Luckily the markets are still small enough and friendly enough that with two (reasonably) responsible adults** we were able to meet in the middle and meet for coffee for the adults and fruit and frozen yoghurt for the ankle-biters later.
Oh readers, you know I know my markets, and this one was heavenly. We all enjoyed tasting – and for their generosity, sales people were rewarded with sales. How could I deny a child fresh fruit I knew they were going to devour like lollies in seconds?
But more about the markets themselves. The quality and range of the products were amazing. Apart from the usual fruit, salads, and vegetables, there was organic beef and lamb, fish, crab, rock lobster, and yabbies – caught overnight or that morning – and cow, goat and sheep yoghurt and cheese. Add in ice-cream, oils, eggs, jams, preserves, plants and fresh flowers. The range was enormous.
In most cases, we were were buying direct from the farmers themselves (or fisherman/producers) and they were happy to yarn about they way they’d grown or caught the products, and the best way to cook them up for lunch or dinner that night.
There was a friendly atmosphere I’ve not quite seen in Australia before. And I also loved that this was no farmer’s market in ‘wolves’ clothing’. No. Albany Farmers Market does no permit the on-selling of produce or products from anywhere outside the Great Southern Region.
So the chances are you are buying the produce direct from the farmer who grew or made it.
I really admire that, and I’m told that genuine excitement “fills the market when the first of a new season product appears like asparagus, avocados, raspberries or cherries.”
It’s a return to sustainable, seasonal farming, where freshness is at its best.
That evening, we enjoyed dinner around the table: fresh fish, caught by us off The Ledge Beach that afternoon and cooked by Uncle S., prawns, marron, and squid bought at the markets, and a variety of vegies and salad vegies either bought at the markets, given to us, or grown at home. With eggs laid by Cousin Tate's very own hens.
It was truly one of the best meals I've even eaten. And an environmentally friendly one too.
Readers, do you love a good market?
If you go: Albany Farmers Markets are held every Saturday in Collie Street, Albany, from 8 am to 12 noon.
*MIA is not affiliated with Woolworths in any way, shape or form. I just can't get that damn jingle out of my head, even though there is a new one now.
** Speaking for myself obviously. (Hey, we may be grown-ups, but I'm still the little sister!)
I have dozens of photos from the day but picasa is being difficult and not letting me post them to my blog. So I'll be back, hopefully tomorrow, to post a selection for you then in Albany Farmers Market, the pictorial edition.