When The Mercury kicked off its Feeding the Future series early last year we never imagined the groundswell of support that would come from it, or how much the city would change in such a short time.
We felt at the time that our farmers were doing it tough and needed support. It seemed ironic for a city surrounded by some of the state’s finest farm lands that we didn’t have the same food culture that so many country towns do.
Our early forays into food were met with mixed success when the weekly farmers’ market at the showground started strongly but then tapered off.
When we wondered why this was we were told that they needed to take stalls for a whole season, which made it hard for producers who only had their crops in for a few weeks each season. We were missing the mark.
And so our Feeding the Future series began. A series that called for balance between the need to eat and the need for shelter, and revealed the bleak future our farmers were facing.
Fast-forward 18 months and Maitland has a thriving market that continues to attract new producers.
Now the market has become the first earth market in Australia and the 60th in the world.
It’s a title that will ensure the market remains true to its roots in the future and shoppers and producers can connect and find common ground in the city’s centre.
When you consider how far the market has come in that time it is quite remarkable. It has grown from a handful of farmers to 14 producers and a selection of backyard growers as well, and now Maitland is also on the brink of an urban agriculture movement.
There’s no doubt that Maitland people are good at working together to get things done.
The market proves how fortunate we are to have not-for-profit group Slow Food Hunter Valley in our own backyard and it’s passionate leader Amorelle Dempster.
Without the support of Slow Food and Ms Dempster the regular market may not have become a reality.
Ms Dempster works tirelessly to ensure the market retains its integrity.
She make sure the produce checks all the boxes and works many long hours, often late into the night, in a bid to create a world with good, clean and fair food.
And she does all of this with a smile.