History

Willunga Farmers Market – A potted history

Willunga Farmers Market was set up to provide a venue for small producers to sell their finest and freshest first-quality food the region has to offer, direct to customers. It was a giant leap of faith by producers and customers alike and it is now a celebrated success story of grassroots, sustainable and economic development.

Here’s how it all began……

‘To Market, To Market’ read the poster in the window of the Willunga general store, midwinter 2001, urging people to attend a meeting to set up South Australia’s first farmers market in Willunga.

This was in response to acclaimed ‘Adelaide Food Legend’ Zannie Flanagan, realising the potential for a farmers market in South Australia while at a New Zealand conference on this issue earlier in the year.

Zannie had invited Jane Adams to lead the preliminary planning workshop at the Alma Hotel in Willunga. Jane is a consultant and head of the Australian Farmers Market Association who had just finished a study tour of US farmers’ markets.

This unique opportunity provided the gathering with a great perspective on how to run a market. A small and very enthusiastic group of farmers, orchardists, local food producers and future customers took up the challenge and an interim committee was established. Six months of hard work on a myriad of issues ensued before Marianne Downes was employed as the first Market Manager, just two weeks before opening.

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Ray Seidel and son Nathan open for business 23 February 2002. Their small, family-owned orchard not only survived, but thrived! McLaren Vale Orchards is now owned by Mark & Lisa McCarthy.

It all came to fruition on the sunny Saturday morning of 23 February 2002, when the first South Australian farmers’ market opened at 8.00am with 18 stalls in the car park of the Alma Hotel, Willunga.

After an eventful (the breakfast BBQ burnt down!) but highly successful day (some traders were selling out of stock and had to go home for more produce) it seemed as though the idea would indeed bear fruit.

Two weeks later came the Grand Opening with special guest David Suzuki, world renowned environmental scientist, thrilling the 3000 strong audience. Willunga Farmers Market has never looked back! ( David Suzuki’s Grand Opening speech 2002)

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David Suzuki addresses a fantastically supportive crowd at Willunga Farmers Market’s Grand Opening. He generously donated all the proceeds of his book sales on the day – over $2000!

A year later Willunga Farmers Market had been through an enormous learning curve. Growing in strength with stallholder and customer members increasing weekly, then Market Manager Vardy Hirst set up the market’s actual (as opposed to virtual) office, went on a major sponsorship and membership drive and began the ‘Chefs at the Market’ workshops. The first of the annual Wilmark Awards were held to celebrate the achievements of stallies and customers alike. And at the 2008 Wilmark Awards we had Peter Chapman, our self-appointed Poet Laureate, do a wonderful job performing the poetry he wrote for each category! He now gets asked to write poems for the Willunga Farmers Market on special occasions.

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Cheong Liew, Willunga Farmers Market’s patron, cooks up a storm with fresh market-day produce.

Cheong Liew, Adelaide’s most well-known chef agreed to become our patron in 2006 – a real feather in our cap! The number of stallholders and the variety of produce grew rapidly as well, and the market began to burst out of the Alma Hotel’s carpark!

WFM Alma Carpark Days

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The Alma Hotel carpark, full to the brim with happy marketeers, buskers and delicious, regional food, straight from the grower.

A new and permanent home was needed. Looking to secure the future, the Management Committee under successive Chairs, Mikaela Wilford and Diana Bickford, campaigned long and hard to find the market a permanent home. Meanwhile, during 2007 the Market Manager, Lisa Hall, and pistachio grower Mark McCarthy created market history by getting married, beginning a family and buying the Seidel’s orchard so Ray and Lois Seidel can retire – all in the same year!

October 2007 saw the culmination of years of effort with the opening of the Willunga Town Square by Premier Mike Rann, Onkaparinga Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg and a thankful cast of 60 plus stallholders, 1200 members and thousands of happy shoppers. Willunga Farmers Market’s future was assured!

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James Bobridge accepts his prize as winner of the Willunga Farmers Market new logo competition from Premier Mike Rann at the Willunga Town Square opening.

Celebrating its seventh birthday in 2009, the market is now settled into its new home. The office too has a new home in The Hub (the old Council offices) right next to the Town Square, thanks to the assistance of The City of Onkaparinga.

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Market Manager, Graham Boyd and Assistant Manager, Zara Lupton settle into Willunga Farmers Market’s lovely, new office.

And the journey continues!

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Peter Chapman, Willunga Farmers Market’s self-appointed Poet Laureate, cuts the market’s seventh birthday cake in the midst of another bustling market day.