Thursday 1 November 2012

Hansard of the Legislative Council



[11.08 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Tasmanian farmers have long wanted to cut out the middle person, but trying to cut them out is usually without success. The problem of profits disappearing between the producer and the consumer continues to increase. The virtual duopoly of the supermarkets is squeezing Tasmanian farmers even more. Some producers in my electorate and elsewhere have found some relief, although it is on a small scale, by selling their produce directly. I have spoken about this before. You might remember I spoke about Wayne and Sue Adams at Holwell where the Kerrisons come from, a relative of the member for Western Tiers. They are cutting out the middle person by marketing their potatoes directly to retailers and also the farmers' market in Launceston. They have their special varieties of boutique potatoes.

The Launceston Harvest Market, launched in February this year, is attracting many producers from cheese makers and honey producers to meat and vegetable farmers. The Harvest Launceston Community Farmers' Market is a not-for-profit organisation where all the money raised is reinvested into the market: infrastructure, workshops for stallholders, improvements to the design, help with staffing and so on. It is open every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. until 12.30 p.m. and the harvest now has nearly 50 stallholders attending the market when their produce is in season. It usually showcases about 40 producers every weekend.

Ms Rattray - Is that at Inveresk?

Mr FINCH - No. It is near the Albert Hall.

Mrs Armitage - It's in the Launceston electorate, isn't it?

Mr FINCH - Yes. You will find that most of the people who show their produce there are from the electorate of Rosevears. It attracts about 2 000 customers to each opening and has a following of more than 4 000 who access its website, Facebook, and Twitter, and receive their emailed newsletter every week.

It is different from other markets in and around Launceston because it sells only food and beverages and not craft or bric-a-brac. It adheres to a very strict charter and market rules that are guided by the Australian Farmers' Markets Association mission statement. Kieryn Deutrom, the marketing manager of the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers' Markets, says that sticking to the strict guidelines - that is, the seller is the grower - seems to be the key to success.

The spokesperson for the Australian Farmers' Markets Association, Jane Adams, came to Launceston for the launch of the market and she said that to be successful, markets need to remain accessible to everyone. She spoke on ABC Rural and I quote:

It's very important that markets don't appear to be in any way elitist. I think that's one of the dangers of farmers markets.

They're not gourmet shopping experiences, they're a place where you buy fresh seasonal food and everybody should feel that they can be there.

I think when you set up your market, it mustn't be that all the marquees are pure white and the chalk boards all match, that's not the ethos of farmers markets.

The Launceston Harvest Market is sticking to that concept. One thing that you get at a farmers' market that you will not find in supermarkets is that consumers know exactly what they are buying and where it comes from. They can ask the grower questions directly about the produce. They can get tips from the growers about their own apple trees, about pruning, cooking and so on. There is an interchange of ideas and there is the social aspect that you do not get in supermarkets. That makes it different.

Not all communities can support a purely farmers' market. Some have to include other items and they cannot support a weekly project, but they too benefit and they also focus their communities. In my electorate we have the Deviot Basket Market operating every Saturday from 6 October. People go in and swap their food and they also have bimonthly, quarterly and other markets at Deviot.

There is no beating a genuine grower-to-consumer market operating every Saturday like the Launceston Harvest Market. It cuts out the middle people and provides that community focus. One day it may even have a roof, it may even have a permanent site throughout the week, like the historic and thriving Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, or markets such as in Florence or Paris. But only nine months after operation, Launceston's market has gained recognition. I want to quote from the online newsletter released this morning and I am sure the member for Murchison will be interested in this:

We already knew it, but Harvest has been listed as one of Australia's best farmers' markets in the latest edition of Gourmet Traveller. Jane Adams … says now with the popularity of farmers' markets across Australia (over 160), farmers' markets '… are not a fad, they have become a sustainable, increasing habitual link in our food chain'. Jane says Harvest is 'Worth a Bass Strait crossing'.

Jane Adams lists the Launceston Harvest Market as one her favourites. It is on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. near the Albert Hall in Launceston.