There was a time when the local farmers market was as much about social interaction as it was a source for fresh local produce. Friends would chill out together on bean-bags in the sun while they sipped chai and listened to local musicians before doing the rounds and filling their baskets with seasonal fruit and vegetables and other locally produced goodies.
But when COVID-19 hit, the farmers market was forced to change and adapt in order to remain open.
Gone were the communal relaxation areas and food sampling, and in their place came hand-washing and sanitising stations and social distancing.
Now, more than five months down the track, the pandemic has highlighted the resilience of our farmers markets and our community, and the importance of having a reliable local food source in a safe outdoor environment.
Byron Farmers Market manager, Tom Carey, says that while it was a challenging time in the early days, as people – both stallholders and customers – adjusted to the new health and safety guidelines, everyone has been cooperative and appreciative that the farmers markets have remained open.
‘In fact, it has really shown that people feel a lot more comfortable coming to the farmers market where they can shop outside in the fresh air and sunshine. And while the communal seating areas are no longer available, there is still social interaction when people shop or wait in line – albeit from 1.5m away. It’s just the new norm for the moment.’
Unlike some supermarkets, which have been depleted of certain foods as a result of panic buying, local farmers turn up every Thursday – week in and week out – with fresh supplies of seasonal produce.
‘These past few months have really proven how valuable our local food security is,’ says Mr Carey.
The Byron Farmers Market is held every Thursday 7am–11am at the Cavanbah Centre, and every Saturday morning 7–11am behind the Bangalow Pub.