FARM FRESH: Sunraysia Farmer’s Market is back in a week’s time, on Saturday, November 8. Photo: Paul Mensch

By ESTHER MACINTYRE

Sunraysia Farmer’s Market will return to Jaycee Park for a ‘pop-up market’ following a further easing of COVID restrictions.

Market co-ordinator Kylie Dew thanked Mildura Rural City Council for its assistance in getting the market up and running for November 8.

“After a lot of work and a lot of negotiation, and special thanks to council, we have the market back on track so it’s good news,” Kylie said.

“I’m really excited and I couldn’t be happier for the growers who have been struggling over this period.

Producers who would normally rely on the markets have had to diversify or go bust.

“Some of them have been able to reinvent themselves, and go to an online facility or set up roadside stalls, but a lot of them have lost the business completely, and shut down,” Kylie said.

“From our perspective we’ve lost maybe up to 50 per cent. It’s a wait and see game as to whether those producers would return.

“Where they can they’ll obviously look for another way to market the product and sell it elsewhere,” she said.

She said some produce had been transported to Melbourne since local markets were put on hold “which is really disappointing because for us now you’re sort of forced to buy your produce in supermarkets when before we could buy it local”.

The market closures had hurt Mildura Sunraysia’s tourism dollar, too, Kylie said.

“Obviously a lot of people do come up to Mildura for the markets. And we’ve lost a lot of visitors in that regard as well,” she said.

While the November 8 market is great news for farmers and the community, Kylie is still cautious about the next steps.

“At this point we’ll start off with one market, and we’ll probably aim for the first and third Saturdays, but we are looking at other options as well,” Kylie said.

“Our poor old veggies don’t realise that they have to stop and not grow for two weeks and just be ready for the first and third Saturdays – it doesn’t work that way, so that’s not really viable for veggie growers either.

“So we’re just looking at options and what else we can do.”

Kylie’s team of volunteers is still very mindful of the virus, and taking every possible precaution in re-opening.

“That is fundamentally why we did shut down – a lot of our volunteer force either had people that were vulnerable, elderly parents, and certainly that was a concern for us, the risk that it posed to them,” Kylie said.

“The last thing that you want to be synonymous for is being a farmer’s market where the covid spread.

“With visitors coming up.. a lot of those inquiries I had been getting were from people out of the region, which was concerning.”

Kylie said: “All of our stall holders have been fantastic, they’ll all have hand-washing facilities for themselves, PPE, sanitiser.

“They will encourage patrons to perhaps point to produce instead of handling it. And they’ll be mindful that the less contact the better.

“We will have covid marshals, about four of us that will wander through the market to encourage flow, keep people moving.

“We won’t be serving breakfast, and we won’t have cash facilities.”