Maitland produce market returns in February

MARKET: Farmer Austin Breiner of Oakhampton with his produce at the Maitland produce market in November.
MARKET: Farmer Austin Breiner of Oakhampton with his produce at the Maitland produce market in November.

Maitland’s fresh food revolution will return to the city’s heart next month after Maitland councillors gave the venture the green light.

All councillors voted in favour of allowing a fortnightly market to proceed in The Levee at a council meeting on Tuesday night.

Farmers will kickstart the return of produce in the city centre at Maitland Show on February 17, 18 and 19 where they will sell their produce over the three days and give shoppers the chance to sample the food, learn how to use it in the kitchen and chat to the farmers.

Then the produce market will be held in The Levee on the first and third Thursday of each month. It will start at 3pm and end at 7pm for most of the year, except June to August when it will be held between 1pm and 5pm. 

Slow Food Hunter Valley leader Amorelle Dempster said the show was the perfect event to relaunch the markets because it coincided with the city’s vision to expand the availability of fresh produce, and the show had returned to its agricultural roots with a paddock to plate theme.

“It’s going to be a great start … I’m really excited about what we will be able to achieve this year – last year was about getting all of this started and now we will be able to build on it,” she said.

Ms Dempster said the fortnightly market would allow shoppers to buy fresh produce more frequently and give farmers a regular avenue to sell direct to the public. 

She said farmers had expanded their range of produce, and the amount they grow, to cater for a more regular market.

The success of the monthly produce market in the precinct last year had given them hope for a future on the land, she said. 

About 400 people came to each monthly market last year and Ms Dempster hopes that figure will increase with the afternoon time slot. 

Councillor Robert Aitchison praised the later time slot, saying the 7am until noon stint made it impossible for working people to attend. 

“It will help farmers sell their fresh produce and it will help the shops and  increase the appeal of the area,” he said.

Councillor Loretta Baker said the city needed to embrace its agricultural roots and support farmers.

“It’s the most natural thing to happen in there,” Cr Baker said.

“When I came to Maitland I could go to Glenarvon Road and buy fresh asparagus and tomatoes – now it’s all turf.”