It was 6:30am and pitch black outside. I had just arrived at the Farmers Market to set up my stall, and despite having a map to guide me, it was too dark to find my allocated spot. The early birds were there, headlamps ablaze, scurrying about erecting their gazebos and preparing their produce. I found Kat, the Market Coordinator, and together we identified my stall area and I was able to start this new adventure.
Rewind a few days: Nicci and Bryce run the Margaret River Cracker Company and we met through a mutual friend. They always have a stall at the weekly Farmers Market so I came to know them by my frequent visits. They hate missing the market as their regular customers expect them to be there, but occasionally they have other committments and can’t attend. So last week they approached me to see if I was willing to help them out by setting up and running their stall for them. How could I say no? I attend every market that I can, and love the atmosphere. I go early and meet the stall holders as I buy our weekly meat, fruit and vegetables from superb locally grown produce. The chance to actually be a part of the market, even for one day was exciting, so I enthusiastically agreed.
I had arrived early, wanting to make sure I had plenty of time to set up before the market officially opens at 8:00am. I knew that local shoppers started arriving at 7:30am so gave myself an hour to get organised. Nicci admited to me that even though they are the physically closest stall holder to the markets (they live just round the corner from us, less than a kilometer from the Market!) they often don’t arrive until 7:15am! I decided I needed much more time than that. Setting the Gazebo up was straightforward until I had to lift and lock to roof section. Luckily Neil, the honeyman, was close by and he happily helped me with that tricky assembly. After setting up the tables, I then had to carefully lay out the very light packets of crackers on the tables and arrange the tasting bowls and signs. Presentation is not usually my best skill, but, guided by some internet photos I saved from their website, I reckon I did an admirable job and was happy with the finished product. I’m sure the hot coffees delivered right to the stall by the Yahava Coffee van helped!
It was now 7:15, fully light and a hive of activity. The empty row I had set up in was almost full. Beside me Uralba Eco Farm were displaying beautiful fresh produce, olives and preserves, and on the other side The Berry Farm had a truck full of the first of the seasons Avocados, all bright green and delicious looking. The stallholders were rushing around buying produce from each other before the shoppers arrived, and grabbing a last minute breakfast snack from the Community Fundraising Stall, where a different community group runs a breakfast bar every week.
The Margaret River Cracker Company (https://www.margaretrivercrackers.com.au/) was started by Nicci and Bryce three years ago and makes beautiful crackers to go with local wines, cheeses, dips, relishes and vegetables. They bake all their produce from home, and have chosen flavours that reflect the local areas best produce, from organic garlic, herbs and onions to cheese and truffles. They have even developed a fantastic range of gluten free products, blending their own flour mix to make sure they retain their crackers trademark fresh crunch. They sell their product at the weekly Farmers Market, and also in many of the local gourmet shops and wineries, and even the Margaret River IGA. They also have a growing business selling to gourmet shops in Perth. Its a great business and they have done a terrific job with smart, modern packaging and eye catching graphics. And, of course, the products are very, very good.
For the next hour it was mostly locals doing their weekly fresh vegetable shop so business was a little quiet, but as soon as the tourists arrived, I was busy. We’ve been amazed at how many tourists still visit here in winter. Many Perth locals fill up the local accomodation for a gourmet weekend away, and the Farmers Market, which won Delicious Magazine’s 2018 “Best Farmers Market in Australia” Award, is a major destination. And the number of Asian tourists is huge, being so close to Singapore and Malaysia. They are very keen to taste local fresh produce and often buy packaged goods to take home. Although the crowds ebbed and flowed, it was steady all morning and plenty of people tasted and bought crackers. I loved that I was set up between two popular local cheese makers, Cambray and Heidi, so many visitors arrived at the stall with cheeses in hand, wanting recommendations for a matching cracker!
I enjoyed interacting with the visitors, and met so many people from around Australia and WA, as well as overseas. Grey Nomads, Hipsters, Hippies, Farmers and kids, everyone was out enjoying the dry morning and the market vibe. My stall was close to the busker too, so I had some good background vocals to chill too. The crackers were a real hit, Nicci and Bryce have done an amazing job with their flavour combinations and tastes. Nothing you buy in a supermarket will compare: the flavours and aromas jump out at you as you taste. There was a real sense of comerarderie amongst the stall holders too, some friendly rivalry and genuine interest in how everyones morning was going. They even “stall sit” for you if you need to duck away for a break or to buy some more food or coffee!
All morning I had been tracking a big thunderstorm that was threatening to interupt our day. It appeared that it had bypassed us completely until, with only 15 minutes of market time to go, it hit and dumped heavy rain on us. The visitors scattered, my crackers were blown over and pack ups commenced in earnest. Luckily I got all the produce packed away safely without getting wet, but the tables and gazebo were drenched by the time I was finished. As was I! So I headed home to unload the car and hang everthing out to dry in the garage.
I had a fabulous day and really appreciated the opportunity to take part in one of Margaret River’s iconic attractions. Not only was it fun interacting with all the shoppers, I really enjoyed getting to know more of the local stall holders. I’m really hoping I can help Nicci and Bryce out again!