Willunga Farmer’s Market: In the Fleurieu Peninsula region of South Australia
It is one of our oldest towns, full of heritage treasures, and now each Saturday in the parking paddock of the old Alma Hotel it turns on one of the Fleurieu’s newest attractions. By 8:00 am, the Willunga Farmer’s Market has risen like a whimsical phoenix from the dust with its mascot Sir Willmark standing proudly inside the gate. An iron-cast rooster, he was salvaged from the local salvage yard, and here you have to come from the Fleurieu to be in it.
Colin’s flower farm stall that is adding brilliant gerbera colour during the Spring is a short trip from the Willunga commercial operation that supplies city florists all week. Early birds also get to see Remedy’s already legendary organic tarts in all their glory. They’re baked round the corner from here. In the next stall, Katrina is happily known as the pigeon poo Lady, but she also does rustic bouquets of flowers and pumpkins and pomegranates in season. Next call on our mini - Fleurieu tour is Mt. Magnificent Farm where Joyce Stone specializes in home-style sauces and jams (and she’s always wiling to swap recipe ideas).
“Try a bit. I made it yesterday.” We call in on Alastair’s freshly made marzipan trestle to learn that he’d noticed all the retail shop stocks were made in Germany, and so he decided to combine Willunga almonds and lots of patience to produce it fresh the way it should be eaten. But this is the only place you’ll find it. In a nearby tent, Eddie’s tempting array of biscuits and bread come from further down the coast. His bake house is tucked away in Back Valley off the Inman River, but why so idyllic and remote? “I was a pig farmer and I wasn’t doing so well, and so I went back to my first trade as a pastry cook,” he grinned. A couple of “melting moments” later, we knew we were the lucky ones.
Sweet violin and flute busking sounds accompanied our mingling with southern suburbs’ families and the occasional restaurant cook looking for that organic extra flavour. Simon has been a chef himself through Europe and at some of the region’s top restaurants, and at the Saturday morning market he proffers some very distinctive pastas. As he dolloped only-hours-old tangles into ordered packets, he explained that the fresh ingredients drive the flavours. “I’ve always loved making pasta, and the market inspired me to come up with some unique regional combinations. When Aldinga emu eggs come into market, in they go!”
Next door, the McCall family turn on their regular act at the Alexandrina Cheese stall, turning a carton of their thick “cream the old way, fresh from the cow” upside down to prove that the spoon won’t budge even with a vigorous shake. Their new Mt. Jagged operation uses generations of Jersey herd experience to produce a regional version of traditional Dutch “round - eye” cheeses. One stall further on, Tim and Sam’s chook eggs are also from Mt. Jagged on the Victor Harbor road beyond the Mt Compass township. You can sample just how good their free range googs taste at the breakfast stall.
The Willunga Farmers’ Market is not too strict with its regional boundaries. Roger is a ring-in from across Lake Alexandrina, bringing in mulloway that fisherfolk seek in the wild down the Coorong. His handsome catch, however, is land based. “We grow ours to this lovely plate-size in our tank farm at Meningie using salt water from an underground bore. Just bake it with herbs and lemon juice in foil - beautiful.”
Secondary student violinist Annabel from McLaren Vale often adds a lilting jig to the unplugged collection of Fleurieu farmgate goodies at this Saturday morning Willunga Farmers’ Market. And regularly on the bill at the entrance you can greet the Spicegirls! Sam and Mikaela grow herbs commercially at McLaren Flat, and an excess of chillies and this weekly outlet added up to some hot sellers in sauces and chutnies. “Try this!,” They urged, pointing to their very popular Chillie chocolate. “It arouses the passions!,” laughed the saucy pair.
The market’s beginnings early in 2002 provided an outlet for Julie and her Coco’s stall too. A bush fruit loaf sat next to a wattle seed bread - all her ingredients are organic and local and baked in Victor Harbor. Tony Russo, however, doesn’t have to travel so far, and he’ll willingly tell you more about his Tuscan-variety olive oils pressed on the slopes of Sellicks Hill, where the family has planted ten thousand trees. Olives add a new colour to the changing patchwork of the southern vales, but Willunga has always meant almonds and Marg and Mick Jones are bent on keeping it that way. At their Tarunga Orchard stall, a dangerously tempting array of sugared and spiced almonds are there for the tasting and buying in the knowledge they’re all made on the block.
In a publicity coup, renowned Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki came to this fledgling produce market in the Autumn of 2002 and loved it. He ventured that all this local, fresh, organic produce was downright subversive. Bland, homogenized and multi-national it ain’t. Essentially, that is why a thousand people or so linger a while at this pioneering Farmers’ Market each Saturday morning, and with the Southern Expressway easing the way and the warmer weather coming, you can bet it is growing.
Lorraine’s Hillside Herb Farm is just out of McLaren Vale and she is always on hand at this instant local produce village in the hotel paddock. “The repeat harvest salad pots are very popular” she tells us. “Just pick off what you need and they’ll grow again.” Shiny apples are stacked in the sunlight streaking through the backdrop of tall gum trees - an organic orchadist like Ray Seidel is what it is all about, and he promises his cherries will arrive for Christmas.
There is one brand name you might recognize from the supermarket dairy cabinets, but Krischen Spranz offers much more here than the Meadows yoghurt that’s gone national: The biodynamic cream, butter, beef mince and sausages he offers from B.-d. Farm Paris Creek are all the more reason why it’s worth bringing the icebox with you.
A sumptuously laden trestle stall like Herbivorous helps to sum up this whole tasty idea. When the weekly market started in early 2002 it lured Lydia to start preparing risottos, savory tarts and more in Middleton on the South coast. She used her friend Jill’s herbs from Hindmarsh Valley. From there comes another symbol of what it’s about - fragrant and colourful herbal bunches called “tuzzymuzzies”. It runs 8 am to 1 pm every Saturday rain or shine, and it is an organic idea that is looking ever more healthy - in the carpark paddock of the old Alma Hotel, it is the Willunga Farmers’ Market.
Willunga Farmers Market
10 Hill Street
Willunga, South Australia
Open: Saturday 8am-1pm.
Manager: Marianne Downes
30 High St
Willunga SA 5172
Ph: (08) 8556 4297
Fax: (08) 8556 4293