The Farmers Markets Alliance of NSW is steadily, if slowly, moving ahead as an organisation that aids and benefits farmers markets, farmers and consumers.
As anyone who has volunteered their time and energy knows, progress can be frustratingly slow when committee members are also working, running markets and raising families. The FMA is very much in this boat, but 2020, in spite of – or perhaps because of – the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen our organisation move a little closer to maturity.
Our committee has been made up of a diverse group of women who together bring a breadth and depth of experience and skills to the organisation. We have barely begun to draw on the human resources we have on tap to support the growth and success of the farmers market sector in NSW.
I’m very pleased that our committee has all agreed to continue in their positions for the next year, which will greatly help with continuity for the work we are doing. With that in mind, there is still room on the committee for new members who would like to contribute to our efforts.
We have finally embarked on gathering our shared purpose and aims into a formal document as a strategic plan and this is close to completion. It will serve to keep our efforts focussed and become an important tool for when committee members come and go.
Part of that strategic plan was to conduct a survey of farmers markets in NSW, including market operators, stall holders and customers. The survey will close at the end of 2020 and we look forward to analysing the data we’ve collected and communicating it to the public.
We hope that this data will help us gain the attention of government and spark interest in supporting our other projects that need funding to get off the ground.
2020 has been an astonishing year for local food systems. Even before COVID-19, the Black Summer of bushfires (which started in September 2019 and burned for five months) demonstrated how local farmers, local businesses and local markets were able to support their communities when they became isolated and centralised distribution systems were scrambling to keep functioning.
It’s not ideal that it took a series of disasters to raise awareness of local food systems after years of hard work by local food activists trying to be heard, but this is where we have found ourselves this year. All forms of local food distribution and alternative models of sourcing food outside of the dominant system of mass production – including growing at home – have experienced a huge increase in demand. It’s almost as if local, decentralised, person-to-person food systems are better for people, farmers and communities! Who would have thunk it?
2021 will be another year of steady progress for the FMANSW. Our focus will be on building membership and demonstrating how joining the FMA is an act of solidarity in the short term that will pay dividends for farmers markets in the long term.
I’d like to thank the other members of our committee, Louise Hensby, Ruth Gaha-Morris, Debrah Novak and Eva Perroni, for their time and effort over the last year. Each of these women are doing important work in their individual local communities and as activists for local food systems. It’s my privilege to know and work with them and I look forward to seeing what we achieve in the year ahead.