In Europe, seeing food markets on street corners is a regular sight.

Filled with fresh, seasonal produce, leafy greens and local farmers, they provide the chance for everyone to access food direct from growers – and have conversations about where it’s come from, how far it’s travelled, and what it can be used for.

They’re places for community, for sharing and for learning, helping to create a more vibrant and sustainable local food system.

And now in Bendigo through the Growers Market at the Old Church On The Hill, the local community have the chance to do just that. 

With the weather warming up, starting from Saturday October 14th, the market will be held weekly until mid-December, and includes freshly picked, local, seasonal fruit and vegetables straight from the grower, along with freshly baked goods and preserves, in a welcoming and inclusive community space.

One of the stall holders is Jodie, who attended her very first Old Church Growers Market as a stallholder last month. She loved everything about the market, especially the energy, vibrance and how it fosters a vibrant community, needless to say  she’ll definitely be back.

Jodie lives just a few blocks from The Old Church on the Hill, is passionate about local food and is a keen gardener, growing her own produce in raised garden beds. She is also very enthusiastic about spaces that connect community together, such as the Old Church on the Hill. When the opportunity arose to have her own stall, full of her own seasonal backyard produce such as lemons, broads beans and fig paste, she jumped on it. Her stall is a family affair, with small hand-made cards illustrated by her 15 year old daughter, who is an artist and also helps Jodie maintain their garden. Jodie says, “The Growers Market is fantastic and another initiative at the Old Church on the Hill that brings people together.”

The Old Church Growers Market is just another opportunity to purchase direct from growers, adding to the already established Bendigo Community Farmers Market (BCFM), that was founded in 2013. BCFM is held every 2nd Saturday of the month at Dai Gum San from 9am – 12:30pm, with a Weekly Market right in the heart of Bendigo at The Good Loaf bakery every Thursday from 1 – 4pm.

Sonia Anthony, owner of Masons of Bendigo and Vice President of the BCFM said “having ample opportunities at markets for locals to purchase local food is important – not only for what we eat, but also for the growers”.

“Ensuring there is choice is key and plus, I love knowing who grows my food and how it is grown,” she said. “Once there’s no choice, those big monopolies will charge whatever they want and pay farmers what they want as they have the buying power. Keeping dollars in our community is key. If we spend $100 at a farmers market directly, $70 of that stays within our community. Shop at some multi-national and it’s half that.”

For Ms Anthony, it’s about getting the word out to our community to make sure they know what’s growing, and that they can access it readily and easily.

“We weren’t designated a City of Gastronomy for no reason – there’s so much growing within our region,” she said. “Once people realise the quality, freshness and seasonally good price, then they are shoppers for life.”

The Old Church Growers Market is run in partnership with Bendigo Foodshare’s Grow Cook Share Food Hub, the Neighbourhood Collective and Regional Victorians of Colour.

Ensuring locally grown food is available to everyone in a variety of ways is the core aim of our Grow Cook Share Food Hub project – with plans to launch another grower’s market later this year in partnership with PepperGreen Farm.

And as the markets grow – so too does Bendigo’s locally grown food produce scene, and the chance for everyone to get involved.

More food, more often – with a distinct Central Victorian flavour.