As my four months interning with Melbourne Farmers Markets draws to an end, I’m looking back and remembering everything that I have learnt on a professional level, but I’m also thinking about all of the wonderful moments that I have had the pleasure to be a part of in the office and at markets. Before coming to Melbourne, I had never imagined the hard work that goes in to organising a farmers market, and I have loved having my little role in it and getting to know the wonderful team that make it all possible. Here are five of my favourite behind-the-scenes facts and moments of my time with Melbourne Farmers Markets.
I my first weeks at MFM I kept getting lost and confused in almost every conversation about stallholders I was having with the rest of the team. All 300+ stallholders were referred to by their first name and not their business name and the whole team seemed to know exactly who we were talking about. As time went on, I noticed it was so much more than just knowing the names, it was getting excited about what was happening on their farms and knowing what sports team their kids play for but most importantly, showing genuine compassion and support through hard times. As I’m getting ready to leave, I realise quite how much I will miss Annabelle getting excited when Sue from Miramonte Farm calls the office or hearing Belle gush about how lovely Sue from D’Lish is after a chat.
Coming from France, where two-hour lunch breaks are not just a cliché, the fast pace of Australian life could sometimes be a bit overwhelming. However, some of my favourite moments at MFM over the last four months have been the times where everyone downs tools for a few hours, hunts down some leafy greens in the planters outside and chops, boils and cooks up a feast together (under supervision of chef-extraordinaire, Miranda, of course). Often joined by the lovely folk from MFH, reground and Sustain, we all sit down together munching away happily to the sound of inside jokes and market tales.
It can sometimes be so tempting to stay under the warm bed covers at 5 am and just rock up at market at the same time as shoppers at 8 am. But the market managers hop on their bikes and peddle down to greet stallholders and set everything up in time for the gates to open. I’ve seen Prue come into the office after a swelteringly hot 40 degree market day at Coburg FM still smiling at a joke a producer had made, and I’ve joined Scott and Miranda in the dark and under torrential rain at Abbotsford FM guiding people to their spots with the same energy as if it were 20 degrees and sunny. The MFM team are as dedicated as it gets to their markets, always ready to pull up their sleeves and do what it takes to make sure everyone has the best day possible, and I think it shows in the relationships they have built with stall holders and shoppers alike.
It can be very hard to tell the difference these days between the companies that are invested in the values they promote and the ones that greenwash everything for sales purposes. At MFM, the team all do their part in building a sustainable future. Aside from the projects during market hours like the wash against waste station, the BYO bag and mug initiative and the market itself that aims to bring producers and shoppers together, the team actually share these same values. Be it cycling 10kms to and from the office every day, wrapping their lunches up in beeswax wraps and getting their coffee in a Keep Cup, starting an office compost bin or wearing extra fluffy jumpers to avoid putting the heating on too early. They also bring this vision to their work as well. There are always discussions and projects on the go about how to make markets even more sustainable and waste free, and think tanks on how they can get even more people access to fresh produce and supporting Victorian farmers. I now feel even more motivated to go home and make changes in my lifestyle and seek to participate in projects in my hometown, to proudly say that I am following MFM’s example.
There is nothing like reading a Facebook message from a shopper excitedly telling us what a great morning they had and sending us a pic of their market haul, or a stallholder busting to get back to market because of the kind words from a customer. When you like, comment or share a post, when you drop a dollar into the donation bucket, when we see your shopping baskets full of leafy greens and your dogs bouncing around happily it makes all the early mornings and hard work worth it.
The happy buzz in the MFM office after a weekend of bumper markets is what drives the whole team to go above and beyond to do it all again the week after.
The extra-special bonus fact is that I am so incredibly grateful for my time with MFM. The opportunity to travel across the world and work with such a welcoming team, some inspiring farmers, growers and producers was a dream come true. Everyone I have met has inspired me in some way, shape or form and I hope that one day I can return to Melbourne, bringing back with me more experience and knowledge to share in the same way they have for me.