Foreshore Artist and Farmers’ Markets

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The Artist and Farmers’ Markets have become a favourite weekend activity for many people in Greater Port Macquarie. Now permanently combining to become The Foreshore Market, this monthly event at Westport Park is a must for locals and visitors alike.

Sonia, the Farmers’ Markets are well known in the region, but give a little history about why and when they first started.

The Hastings Farmers’ Markets is now nine years old. It began and continues at the Wauchope Showground on the fourth Saturday of each month and combines with the artists on the second Saturday of the month at the Foreshore Market in Port Macquarie.

The markets support local farmers and local fine food producers, which in turn sustains our local economy and our local community. By buying local, we are also assured of the freshest produce and product, eliminate the carbon footprint of long haul transportation, and when we shop at the market we are each taking small but significant steps to preserving our environment. The markets began through Port Macquarie-Hastings Council as an Economic Development initiative, always aiming to nurture local enterprise and sustain and strengthen our community.

Necia, the Artist Market has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2009. How did you recognise the need for this type of market?

I have always held a strong belief that we needed to reinforce our sense of community and to establish a meeting spot within our area that would bring together like minded creative people. Two years ago I completed an events management course and armed with a new determination, set out to bring my dream to a reality.

Generally my concept was well received, and I found that my life took on a new direction and focus. I welcomed some of the most amazing people into my life and found an incredible strength from the encouragement that they gave.

You are both passionate about showcasing what we offer here locally. What drives your enthusiasm?

S: I want to see our community remain strong and diverse and retain our farming land to sustain our community with fresh, healthy, local products. I love food and the experience of sharing a meal. The fresher the product, the simpler the meal. A great journey in flavour, without too many tricks – just the freshness and depth of taste that comes with great seasonal product. A meal should be an event, not a chore – a time to stop, talk and relax at breakfast, lunch or dinner. That is best and easiest achieved with great local seasonal ingredients direct from local farms. Food and dining binds us – an age old and sometimes forgotten tradition which is the very centre of our families and communities. That’s what drives my passion.

N: Our region is filled with some incredibly talented people who struggle to find the correct medium to showcase and sell their works. I wanted to establish an alternate venue for them, that was cost effective and also one that engaged the interest of people from all walks of life. The market has a beautiful cross section of artists and craftspeople – many of whom love to discuss and demonstrate their skills. For them to engage directly with the public is a great thing.

As a community, there is always room to highlight further the creative souls around us and to appreciate and embrace their talents. It is definitely something that can be nurtured even further.

Following the success of the Combined Farmers’ and Artist Markets, you have made it a regular event on the calendar. When and where is it now to be held each month?

We’ve held the Foreshore Market on the Town Green for the past four months and move to Westport Park for the long term in March. It’s a spacious venue with lots of parking and can be seen from the surrounding roads.

We continue the Wauchope Farmers’ Market on the fourth Saturday of every month, so anyone who wants great local product and produce has two opportunities each month to go to the source. We will always offer additional entertainment and demonstrations to add colour and interest to the markets and the opportunity for community groups to participate for fundraising and information sharing initiatives.

The concept of the combined market has had a huge support. We successfully trialled the concept last September, with an amazing response. I know that both of us were overwhelmed with the response that we had on the day and the follow up letters and emails that we received. We needed to look at what concept was going to prove the most sustainable for our markets as a regional event and also as a destination market.

From March onward, the market will be held on the second Saturday of the month at Westport Park, on the banks of the Hastings River.

The Market will embrace a new name, and we will be known as The Foreshore Markets.

How has having a combined market helped bring vendors to the streets?

It’s like a paddock of exquisite wild flowers coming into bloom after a long winter. The joy, the pride the vendors exude when they have a large and appreciative audience. It gives them confidence, bolsters their income, and those positive outcomes encourage and seed others. It’s as simple and rewarding as that.

Sonia, The Farmers’ Markets are a great way to pick up fresh produce. How important is it that we keep supporting the locals?

My long term catch phrase is buy fresh, buy best, buy local. Why buy from an outside source, when you have so many enthusiastic local vendors peddling their quality goods and talents!

All across NSW we see so many smaller regional centres turning into ghost towns – not enough business and money in those towns to sustain them. Thankfully, our region is generally more prosperous, and it is up to each us to retain that by supporting local farmers, artisans and small business to bolster our local economy and retain the people, the characters and their trade that give a unique quality to our region.

Necia, the Artist Market gives budding artists a place to showcase their work locally and get some recognition for their creativity. What has been the response from some of the artists so far?

Stallholders attend the markets for various reasons. Some use it as a very successful promotional medium, others for a regular income, and I would have to say that there are quite a few who just love the sense of community and the friendships that they have created amongst the other stallholders.

It is this aspect of the market which I love the most, and to see them rally around each other when one of life’s hiccups occur or the market tent just won’t go up … it is reassuring to witness that true sense of community.

Several of the stallholders who commenced in the initial stages have gone on to wonderful success in their enterprises and have outgrown the markets. If the markets can aid in any way to support, encourage or nurture fledgling businesses, in my view they are a huge success.

What is your vision for 2011 for the combined markets?

The Foreshore Markets will retain their wonderful sense of community, and we will embrace even further our role to highlight locally grown and handmade / handcrafted products.

We look forward to making the Foreshore Markets a regional destination that is known for quality, eclectic stallholders who represent our region’s best.

To continue offering opportunities for our vendors to grow and prosper. Keeping the market interesting and well supported by the locals and visitors from further afield.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could grow the market and gain a reputation like Bellingen Markets and attract more visitors to our town on a regular basis? We want the Foreshore markets to be a regular community event of which the community can be proud and joyfully support.

As a tourist or visitor to the region, what can we discover at the markets?

Unique handmade arts and crafts, a beautiful selection of farm fresh produce with an eclectic mix of other stallholders from gourmet foods, flowers, vintage clothing and handmade jewellery.

Great personalities and interaction with the people who make, bake or grow what is on offer. Colour, atmosphere and character.

Are you looking for new vendors or entertainers? How can they get involved?

We are always looking for new vendors that fit within our concept, but we would have to say that we are passionate about retaining the standard that we currently have and not growing beyond what the area can support.

Anyone who is interested in learning more should contact Sonia on 0414 376 868 or Necia on 0401 526 936.

What would you like to say to anyone who hasn’t been to the market yet?

Come and discover our community spirit down on the banks of the Hastings. You’ll love the Foreshore Markets.

Buy fresh, buy best, buy local in a fabulous location where you are bound to meet friends and enjoy a great community event.

Thank you Sonia and Necia.

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