A guide to Melbourne's best Farmers Markets Image credit: Shutterstock

Farmers Markets have existed ever since people have farmed land and grown produce. In towns and villages across the world farming was the primary means of income and weekly markets where farmers sold their excess produce a part of normal existence.

A 20th century combination of intensive farming, urbanisation, and the advent of refrigeration, transport and the supermarket saw people lose touch with seasonality and become accustomed to buying different foods at all times of the year.

The late 1990s saw the beginnings of a re-emergence of farmers markets when, inspired by television chefs hunting down the most exquisite seasonal produce, food lovers too wanted a flavour-packed alternative to homogeneous supermarket aisles and started to follow suit.

In the UK the first “new age” farmers' markets kicked off in 1997 in the historic city of Bath and were a huge success: by 2000, there were more than 200 up-and-running across Britain.

Australia wasn't far behind: by 2002 there were 35 farmers markets across the nation, where shoppers motivated by the ever-growing emphasis on food provenance, organic and GM-free produce, seasonality, an interest in slow food, and awareness of the environmental impact of food miles, stocked up on fresh locally grown and produced foods.

Today more than 160 markets are held weekly, fortnightly or monthly from Tasmania to Far North Queensland in venues ranging from city malls and car parks to playgrounds.

Victoria alone has 70-plus farmers markets in rural areas, regional centres, suburban areas and the inner-city. 

Melbourne's first farmers market, the Collingwood Children’s Farm market, started in 2002 and is now part of a network of thriving Melbourne markets.

On the second Saturday each month up to 3,000 shoppers flock to this inner-city farm on the  Yarra River, four kilometres from the CBD, to stock up on farm fresh and organic seasonal fruit and vegetables, herbs, juices, breads, olive oil, honey, local bread, home-made nougat, juices, free range eggs, meat, chicken, smoked fish, home-made condiments and artisan cheeses – to name a few - from more than 50 Victorian producers.

You can discover a similar array of farm fresh produce next door at Abbotsford Convent on the fourth Saturday of every month, when 60-plus growers and makers gather for the Slow Food Farmers Market.

This unique and personal shopping experience is held in the historic grounds of the convent, founded in 1863, that once rang with the choirs of the nuns of the Order of the Good Shepherd.

St Kilda's Veg Out Community Gardens, with 150 garden plots run by community groups and local residents, began in 1998 on the site of the abandoned St Kilda bowling club, which was about to be developed into a car park – thankfully it wasn't - and has been attracting food lovers ever since.

At the Veg Out Farmers Market on the first Saturday of each month you'll find organic and low-impact vegetables, herbs, juices, cheeses, honey, wine, smoked meat and fish, sourdough breads, berries, free range eggs, pates, jams, wine, sauces and more - all sold directly by Victorian grower/producers at Melbourne's favourite seaside suburb.

Around 50 stallholders bring a slice of rural life to the Gasworks Farmers' Market in Albert Park on the third Saturday of every month.

The recipient of the Outstanding Farmers Market Award at the 2012 delicious Produce Awards, vibrant Gasworks market buzzes with shoppers filling their recycled bags with fresh Victorian produce grown or made by around 70 stallholders, from Glenora Heritage Produce vegetables, Gundowring Icecream and Bultarra Saltbush Lamb to Holy Goat Organic Cheeses, made by hand at the Sutton Grange Organic Farm near Bendigo.

Some of the fine products to discover at Melbourne's Farmers' Markets:

  • Alpine Cherries and Chestnuts
  • Bliss Blend Organic Tea
  • Di's Rhubarb seasonings
  • Eureka Coffee
  • Frou Frou Artisan cordials
  • Gamze Smokehouse hand-crafted smallgoods
  • Glenora Heritage vegetables
  • Hartdale Park Venison
  • Hens of Hallora free range eggs
  • Holy Goat Cheese
  • Hope Farm Bakery
  • Jindivick Tomatoes
  • Jonella Farm organic vegetables
  • Killara Rise Lamb
  • King Valley Free Range Pork
  • King Valley Walnuts
  • Krowera Hills Olive Oil
  • Larder Fresh nougat
  • Michel's Fine Biscuits
  • Milawa Free Range poultry
  • Moondarra Organic blueberries
  • Mount Zero Olives
  • Mt Buffalo Hazelnuts
  • Nina's Homemade Preserves
  • Schulz Organic Milk
  • Sisely Estate Preservative-free wine
  • Smith's of Taminack farm fresh fruit
  • Stoney Creek flaxseed oil
  • Walkabout Apiaries.

FACT FILE

  • Collingwood Children's Farm St Helier Street Abbotsford 2nd Saturday of every month, 8am - 1pm
  • Slow Food Melbourne Abbotsford Convent 1 St Heliers Street Abbotsford 4th Saturday of every month, 8 am – 1 pm
  • Veg Out St Kilda Farmers' Market Peanut Farm Oval between Chaucer & Spenser Streets St Kilda 1st Saturday of every month, 8 am – 1 pm
  • Gasworks Arts Park 21 Graham St Albert Park 3rd Saturday of every month, 8.30 am – 1.30 pm

For more information on Farmers' Markets across Victoria visit vicfarmersmarkets.org.au and Melbourne Farmers' Markets at mfm.com.au.