There’s no denying it, any trip to a Farmers’ Market results in a feast of delicious treats, the quality of which is simply unsurpassed. Taking home bags of fresh, local, hand-made fare – whether it’s bread, cheese, wine, chutneys or meats – is the perfect compliment to any relaxing and rejuvenating retreat.

There’s something slightly magical about visiting the markets too. You know the people you encounter believe in their produce and strive to make it the best it can possibly be. The convenient supermarkets may rule the roost in the cities, but out where nature reigns supreme, the Farmers’ Markets are the peoples’ champion. And the great thing about Australia and New Zealand is that we do Farmers’ Markets very well indeed.

Below, you’ll find six of our favourite things about this bountiful world.

Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne, VIC - Tourism Australia & Time Out Australia

The money you spend stays local

It’s estimated that for every $100 spent at a Farmers’ Market, about 60 percent of it stays in the local economy. So if you’re visiting somewhere new, you can have a direct and positive impact on that economy by simply choosing to shop at a Farmers’ Market than a supermarket (where only 25 percent of the money stays local). On top of helping the locals, you’ll also be taking home a better-quality bag of groceries, so it’s a win-win situation.

It’s really not that expensive

Whilst prices at Farmers’ Markets may seem higher, you’re almost always paying a fair price for the produce you’re purchasing. If the same quality goods were sold at a supermarket or specialty store, they would, generally speaking, be much more expensive. When it comes to buying the freshest, healthiest and most environmentally friendly food, you really do get what you pay for. Think of it this way: you’ll only be paying a small amount more for something a whole lot better.

Darwin, Northern Territory - Tourism Australia

Grass-fed beef

No matter which way you cut it, grass-fed beef from a Farmers’ Market out-flavours, out-textures and out-performs any other kind of beef. As well as the superficial qualities, grass-fed meat is also better for the environment. Animals raised on grass emit 8 percent less greenhouse gas and contain up to 30 percent less ammonia levels than animals that were fed corn and raised in confinement. Be sure to ask your farmer just how their animals were raised, they’d be happy to tell you.

You can ask the farmers anything (about their produce)

Each farmer is an expert in his field (no pun intended). Whether they’re selling berries, cheese, meat, breads or vegetables – they will gladly explain the process of getting their produce on the table in front of you. They may even be able to advise you on best methods of cooking and preparation, inform you of good recipes, or let you know what other produce you can grab from the market to compliment your purchase. They’ll usually let you have a few samples too, if you ask nicely. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, you’re bound to learn something.

Noosa Farmers Market, Noosa, QLD 2 - Tourism Australia

Incredible chutneys

One of the quintessential Farmers’ Market products is local, homemade chutney. Often coming in a multitude of flavours and incorporating myriad ingredients, you’re bound to find something to perfectly compliment the cheese and bread you’ve bought. One of our favourites is caramelised red onion chutney – drop a dollop on a slab of Tasty cheese and you’ll soon find yourself in a special kind of heaven.

Health-boosting, environment-conscious carrots

Among all the other vegetables you’re bound to find at a Farmers’ Market, carrots are a real stand out for us. You’ll find them in every shade (even purple or white) and much like the aforementioned grass-fed beef, they’re better for the environment because their production involves far less in the way of storage and transport – resulting in up to 60 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. And of course, they’ll be the tastiest carrots you’ve ever purchased.

Adelaide Central Market, Adelaide, SA - Tourism Australia

The cheese, oh the cheese 

From your Stilton and your Brie to your Tasty and your Parmesan – cheese is one of the Farmers’ Markets’ strongest draw cards. There’s something about spotting the cheese stall that brings forth an immediate sense of excitement. Of course, the promise of fresh, delicious cheese is always something to get excited about, but when you know it’s probably travelled no more than a few kilometres from the cows it came from, it becomes extra-special. Be sure to hop from one cheese stall to the next to find your favourite incarnation of your favourite cheese.

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Image: courtesy of Tourism Australia & Time Out Australia