Fifteen years ago Brisbanites could only dream of having the kind of access to farm fresh produce that much of Europe and Asia enjoyed for as long as anyone can remember. Roadside stalls with boxes of produce and an honesty box yielded you a hit and miss selection of whatever was in season if you were prepared to hit the hinterland on a weekend but other than that and what you could grow in your backyard, produce buying happened at the local fruiterer and increasingly, at the supermarket.
Enter Jan Power, a feisty, fabulous doyenne of the food industry, a caterer, public speaker and raconteur with a desire to buy food with dirt still on it.
She hated (and still does) all the packaging surrounding a simple tomato and that everything from melons to mangoes, apples to avocados began sporting ugly little stickers advertising the middleman or whomever had handled the produce for an unspecified time after it left the farm.
She collected a small and dedicated band of growers and primary producers, bullied the hapless powers that be into giving her a space in New Farm and went for it.
Fast forward a decade and a half and the Jan Power’s Farmers Markets is recognised as one of the leading markets of its type. She runs a total of ten markets every month in and around the city and is still the only market owner in the country to hold a weekly market smack bang in the centre of the CBD.
The latest jewel in the crown is held in Albion Mill Village just north of the city, which opened in September and is a monthly Sunday market. Coffee and cinnamon wafts through the air early as shoppers and their pooches take to the avenues of just picked produce, meats and Stradbroke Island seafood, organic breads and cakes, brownies and waffles.
Here there’s an emphasis on ready-to-go food items with a myriad of ethnic passports – Hungarian langos is topped with dill, crème fraiche and salmon, breakfast burritos ramp up the spice and German sausages with sauerkraut and mustard send irresistible aromas floating around the grounds.
Attending the markets has become a ritual for many and it often includes the whole family. Mum, Dad, the kids and the family pooch are all welcomed and catered for with delicious (we think) and nutritious cookies and cupcakes made especially for dogs. They are fat and sugar free and contain no chemicals, which is very important to today’s health conscious pooches!
The Manly Market, along the shoreline of Moreton Bay south of Brisbane, happens once a month and is a firm favourite with locals. Fresh juices are piled high with freshly cut fruits, there’s a pop-up French café where you can sip on a café au lait with a pain au chocolat listening to the strains of the accordion and bay breezes wafting over you.
Talking to Farmer Dave from Pick-a-Box about his family recipes for seasonal favourites like bloody sorrel, freshly harvested galangal, turmeric and garlic is one of the highlights of every market. Dave’s farm is in the hinterland north of Brisbane and is a multi-generational family business who have been with Jan since day one. “Jan has done so much for us primary producers, we love her and are very grateful for the opportunity she created for us and for our customers.”