Don't give up because the Big Top markets failed: farmer

Kidaman Beef owners Jeremy and Kate Atkins say Sunshine Coast families deserve a mid-week farmers' market.
Kidaman Beef owners Jeremy and Kate Atkins say Sunshine Coast families deserve a mid-week farmers' market. Alex Nolan

DON'T give up on mid-week fresh food markets just because Big Top's failed - Sunshine Coast families need them.

That's the message from prominent cattle farmer Jeremy Atkins, who was a stall holder at Big Top Market Fresh from when it opened at Easter last year until mid-August last year.

"We used to get a lot of people coming to Big Top - people would travel quite a distance to get our goods - because they knew they couldn't get there on the weekend," Mr Atkins said.

Going to a farmers' market "just wasn't feasible" for many families because weekends were full of sport and "taking kids here and there", he said.

When his business, Kidaman Beef, had its Big Top stall selling grass-fed beef from his property at Kidaman Creek, about 30km west of Nambour, the busiest trading hours were after 6pm on Wednesday.

"Those out-of-school hours were our biggest trading times," Mr Atkins said.

He said the Coast had many large families who would prefer to support local farmers but who had no way of getting to them.

"Big Top really appealed to me because you could create those linkages with families," he said.

He said the concept for a mid-week fresh food market "was fantastic" when it was first proposed, and still was.

"I would still like to see a mid-week farmers' market that would allow consumers and farmers to exchange goods during the week when they need their supplies," he said.

Having enough of a range of goods that the "eaters" were able to access a good range of products was critical for a fresh food market's success, Mr Atkins said.

"We had customers come in who bought our meat, bought veggies from another vendor, and they said they could do most of their shopping there," he said.

That's what brings them back every week, he agreed.

"It's one of the challenges of farmers' markets that operate monthly or fortnightly," he said.

They also needed to be regular and weekly, he said. A seasoned stall holder, Mr Atkins said markets held every fortnight struggled to keep customers coming back.

"It needs to be reasonably constant so people know the time that it's open," he said.

"Different people want different things, but from my point of view farmers' markets really are about creating those linkages from the farm to the family, because that's where the bulk of turnover really is.

"And we want people eating fresh food and not packaged foods."

Topics:  big top, farmers' markets, fresh food, shopping

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