Maitland’s Slow Food Earth Market rushes to milestone

One-hundred markets in five years… now, that’s a milestone worth celebrating.

And, it’s exactly what the volunteers from Maitland’s Slow Food Earth Market did on Thursday.

A big crowd not only descended upon The Levee this week to acknowledge the event’s fifth anniversary, but residents – young and old – snapped up a bargain or two.

From sourdough bread to savory pastries, pasture-raised beef, mushrooms, vegetables, garlic, olive oil and olive products, plants, honey and much more, there was something to tempt every taste bud.

“It’s a special occasion for everyone and one we are proud of,” chairperson Amorelle Dempster said.

“But, we wouldn’t be here without the efforts of Terry Kavanagh, John Brown, Helen Hughes, Bob Adams, Bob Leonard, Jenny Rooke and Merilyn Dunn, as well as farmers Matt and Liam Dennis (Nebo Farm), Austin Breiner ( Oakhampton Heritage Farm) and Tom Christie (4 Acre Farm), who’ve been with us from the start.”

The Slow Food Earth Market began in Maitland on 3 August 2017 in response from the community for access to locally-grown produce – and a way to reinvigorate the farming system in the region.

Only three times have they been cancelled, twice due to COVID-19 and once due to the recent floods.

“We estimate that in the five years, we’ve sold more than 200,000 kilograms of food and given about 10,000 kilograms to drought, flood or pandemic relief,” Ms Dempster said.

“Way back in 2015, we established a pop-up market in the center of town to help save a pumpkin crop.

“That was the catalyst for Slow Food Hunter Valley leader Anne Kelly and myself to have a shared vision for a fresh food market.

“It provides some of the basics but so much more.

“The community now has access to it all directly from the growers and the people who make it.

“We’ve operated as a way and an opportunity for the producers to develop their farming businesses.

“From this, we have seen education on farm, boxes delivered directly to customers and an increase in biodiversity on farm.

“The best of the farmers’ produce is now in fine dining restaurants here in Maitland, the Hunter Valley and Sydney.”

Ms. Dempster admitted there were many people who warranted praise behind the scenes.

“My thanks go to our management team, as well as all those who have volunteered over the past five years and the Slow Food Earth Market partners,” she said.

“We’re blessed with the goodwill of the Maitland City Council, too.

“They’ve made it easy for us to operate in The Levee.

“The staff has not only championed the group, but their Paddock to Plate strategy as well.

“Mayor Philip Penfold and his current councilors continue to back us, however I need to single out Loretta Baker.

“She was there from the beginning and has visited 90% of the 100 markets.

“It would also be remiss of me not to express my gratitude to Maitland state MP Jenny Aitchison and Paterson federal MP Meryl Swanson for their support.

“Their advocacy and voices in parliament have assisted us in so many ways to keep this market and its producers front and center of food security.”

Another person who deserved special recognition was Crissy Rowcliff, from Carinya Downs.

The Wurundjeri woman received the John Clark Innovation Award – and $500.

“The accolade acknowledges Crissy’s work in developing a wide-range of products, including her knowledge and application of native and indigenous plants in her production,” Ms Dempster said.

“The award is made in honor of John Clark.

“He was a much-loved member of the Slow Food Earth Market community and himself an inventor and innovator, along with Liz Griffiths, his business and life partner.”

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