There are few better ways to wake up one’s (half-asleep) five senses on a Saturday morning, than to treat them all to a feast at Eveleigh Farmers’ Market.
True to form, my stomach’s siren started sounding once my nose caught a whiff of fresh pastries and coffee near the entrance.
But that morning, I had to teach my stomach that patience is a virtue. Better things were ahead – like a one-hour guided tour of the market by a food expert. I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Jane Grover – chef and author of Naked Food – on one of three tours that she held for free on October 25th to celebrate six years of Eveleigh’s existence.
With her years of market-navigating experience, Jane led six of us Eveleigh-first-timers through crowds of shoppers carrying fragrant fresh-cut flowers and tote bags overflowing with organic produce.
Over 70 stalls fill the heritage-listed Blacksmiths Workshop space, situated within what used to be the Eveleigh Rail Yards from the 1890s. The faded walls of this former industrial building provide the perfect backdrop to showcase rows of colourful farm-fresh produce.
There’s something special about meeting the very person who grows the items on your grocery list. Eveleigh is “producers only”, and brings together some of the finest farmers across the states of NSW and ACT into one space. Jane tells the group that the waiting list for a stall in the bustling marketplace currently stands at… (take a guess)
… over 500 applicants.
I think that list should be named The List of Patience.
It’s a good thing that Eveleigh’s popularity is still going strong after six years in taste-shifting Sydney, given that there aren’t many places where city folk can get fruits and veggies that have been picked just two days prior to sale.
Jane shares that Kurrawong Organics harvests their vegetables on Thursday to be sold on Saturday of the same week. In contrast, the harvest-to-sale time for supermarkets could range between two weeks to six months; and a significant amount of produce tends to be frozen before hitting the shelves.
Jane explains how this affects the shelf life of produce by comparing the shelf life of freshly-picked mushrooms – like the ones at Margin’s Mushrooms – to most supermarket stock. The difference is stark: 3 to 4 weeks vs. 1 week or less.
We move on in the airy, light-filled space to meet Greg, a chatty cattle farmer from Wingham. At Jane’s request, Greg gives a five-minute snippet of his farming philosophy and caring for his grass-fed, antibiotic-free Hereford cattle. He says “it’s very important for farmers to meet the public to know what they want”.
As we stroll along, Jane turns to the group with a smile and says:
“Apart from Greg, the farmers here don’t really talk too much. They’re generally very quiet, humble and hardworking people who just care about growing the best produce… so it’s important for us to express our support.”
Expressing our support came naturally at the next stall. We learnt that the folks at Boomba Boers had driven SEVEN HOURS to the market from their farm in Dorrigo – which essentially meant that they had to be out of bed by the previous night, commence the seven-hour journey, and set up stall before 8am. Wow, and wow again.
About mid-way through the tour, we arrived at La Tartine – creator of irresistible organic carbs since 1987. Behold, the time had come to pacify my stomach. And so the tummy chose a delicious nuts-and-raisin sourdough stick for me to munch on, and an olive sourdough loaf for home.
Jane continued to introduce us to more inspiring producers from a range of backgrounds. There was dairy, pasta, smoked meats, goats’ cheese, olive oil, alpaca meat… and before we knew it, an hour was up.
And so Jane left us with these wise words:
“This end, you eat from. That end, you give from.”
By “that end”, she was referring to the other half of the market that housed boutique wine, homemade fudge, dips, chutneys, pressed juices… (you get the idea). And yes, they would make great gifts (both for yourself and others) indeed!
Oh but wait. Also waiting at “that end” was an unexpected surprise – and a beautiful one at that. In the dog-friendly market was a stall devoted to helping the less fortunate of the lot. I had the joy of meeting Missy – a rescued dog who was almost put down by her former owners for having nothing more than a removable lump on her side.
As you can see from the series of candid shots, Missy takes affection to a whole new level. This lady certainly earned the belly rub that she asked for (warning: she’s mastered the lie-down-roll-over-expectant-eyes routine) after treating me to all those snuggles and licks 🙂 Do support the good work of No Kill Pet Rescue by checking out their website and Facebook page to donate, volunteer or foster/adopt a rescue dog!
For a food photographer and stylist’s take on the day, check out my friend’s post here at Miles & Mise en Place.
Eveleigh Farmers’ Market is located at 243 Wilson Street, Darlington. Open every Saturday from 8am-1pm.