Miranda Sharp, VFMA committee member and founder of Melbourne Farmers’ Markets on left, with VFMA President Wayne Shield, and Kate Archdeacon VFMA Executive Officer.
BACK in 2002 when the Collingwood Children’s Farm was under threat of being ‘swallowed up by a housing development’, Miranda Sharp, an action-oriented person, who is clearly brimming with energy and enthusiasm, decided to do something positive rather than just protesting, and so the monthly farmers’ market at the Collingwood Children’s Farm was launched.
The market was a success from the beginning and is still a popular monthly market with 60 to 70 vendors.
“The Children’s Farm now credits the market for having saved the farm, because of the attention that it drew and the support it garnered,” said Miranda who, in 2002, was a caterer and food writer.
“Many informal parts of the food system are expressed in markets”, says Miranda. “They are an important venue for people to gather together, to learn about food and to develop a sense of community.
“For all the online ways we can connect these days, personal meetings are still very important. Markets are a place where people are introduced to each other, can meet the grower and be introduced to new foods and how to use them.”
Miranda currently co-ordinates six farmers’ markets in Melbourne, under the umbrella of the Melbourne Farmers’ Markets, a not-for-profit company, that she founded.
She remains a keen observer and often a critic of the food system and is passionate that the markets she helps to co-ordinate are conscious of waste – they have always been plastic bag free.
Melbourne Farmers’ Markets recently established a new base for their enterprise at Alphington, 7km north-east of Melbourne’s CBD and set up the weekly Alphington Farmers’.
Miranda explained the objective of the site is to offer services to the stallholders at all six of their Melbourne markets. “Markets are a challenge for the growers”, said Miranda, “as they have an intense five hours of selling but often have no other base than their small stall and a vehicle.
“We are in a joint venture with Sustain: the Australian Food Network, in establishing the Melbourne Food Hub which has storage and a commercial kitchen.
“It offers a low entry point for novice sellers and is an effective business incubator, providing a facility where food stalls can find ingredients, experiment with recipes and presentation, and sell.
“It is a very ambitious venture with a collective approach and many potential outcomes. It’s happening thanks to a grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, to study the effects of the food system and how we can replicate and scale the successes.
“We like to think of our hub as a ‘producers dating service’ and we are hopeful of having many positive impacts.
“Our site at Alphington is a source of pride, as it was a degraded council tip site and we have developed it into the food hub and a weekly farmers’ market.”
Melbourne Farmers’ Markets operate six VFMA accredited markets at Collingwood, Alphington, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Gasworks (Albert Park), Fairfield and Coburg.
These markets are solely funded by stallholder fees. Some markets request a gold coin entry fee for shoppers, which goes to support the venue, such as the Coburg Primary School, which hosts the Coburg Farmers’ Market.
Miranda Sharp is also a committee member at the Victorian Farmers Market Association (VFMA).
– TIM MARSHALL