Arts & Entertainment

The Return of Pyrmont Growers Market

Donna Burton, Jack Burton. Photo: Find My Rice


A Saturday morning growers market has been as much a feature of Pyrmont as the iconic Anzac Bridge. For almost twenty years, farmers, producers and makers have been selling fresh natural produce and authentically made foods by the waters of Pyrmont Bay. When the markets were terminated last April, it left a void on the shoreline and in the calendar.

But the Pyrmont Growers Market is back. Through dedication, passion and persistence, a team of locals and business owners, led by the Pyrmont Ultimo Chamber of Commerce and generously supported by The Star, has brought together a premium selection of vendors for a market that should equal, if not surpass, its former self.

Market Manager, Mick Roche is thrilled about the vendors they have so far and confident about the potential growth, both in number of stalls and activities. The market will open with roughly 65 stalls but could ultimately get to 120.

“We want to be as close to a grower, producer, catcher market as possible,” said Roche, citing a strict vetting process that will restrict the addition of stallholders. That said, Roche sees opportunities for many other types of business to be involved, for instance, local entrepreneurs may get a chance to trial their ideas or products, and future markets may include entertainment, fitness groups, and demonstrations.

Markets have been proven to attract outside people to a precinct and to have a positive knock on effect for local fixed businesses.

“The facts overwhelmingly support that markets help ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses within the community. And all bricks and mortar businesses have the opportunity – as long as it’s keeping with the theme of the market – to have an involvement,” explained Roche.

Bringing enthusiasm, integrity and 21 years experience in the food industry to the project is food consultant Tawnya Bahr. She has been charged with the responsibility of sourcing and thoroughly assessing businesses for their authenticity and suitability for a growers market. The guidelines are very strict: products must be organic, of high quality, locally made and fresh.

Bahr conducts provenance food tours through her business, Straight To The Source, taking people to farms and factories and providing them with useful facts and cooking tips. She will be giving guided tours for groups of around 12 people at the Pyrmont Growers Market. The tour will take participants to selected stalls where they will be given comprehensive information about the produce, and can experience tastings and demonstrations.

“In between the stalls we talk about the seasons, we talk about the produce – there’s a lot of information shared in an hour,” said Bahr.

No two tours are the same, and there’s always something to be learned – in fact, quite often she’ll have chefs come along incognito to get tips on ingredients and preparation.

Bahr believes people should buy from growers markets whenever they have the choice:

“It supports local business; supports small businesses; the food is much fresher; it puts the human element back into the food system; it encourages social engagement, it’s a positive experience; and it supports our farmers.”

Pepe Saya produces organic, cultured butter and other products from cream sourced from rich dairyland regions around NSW. They sell to individuals and businesses and are highly regarded in the food industry. Owner, Pierre Issa (Pepe) says they began selling at Pyrmont Growers Market in around 2011. He was devastated when the markets ceased operation and is equally overjoyed that they have returned.

“It’s basically the best branding opportunity that we can have for our business,” Issa explained. Pepe Saya sells at seven different farmers markets in Sydney, but Pyrmont has always been special to Issa:

“I remember when I was a lad…Pyrmont Market was the only farmers market available… So they actually paved the way for every other (growers) market we have today.”

Only at a growers market or the factory can you buy the full range of Pepe Saya products. At Pyrmont, they’ll be teaming up with Sonoma Bread to provide mutual tastings for customers.

Issa has total faith in the viability of the Pyrmont Growers Market, mostly because of the parties involved. He has high regard for the stallholders, and for the genuine passion and integrity of Roche and Bahr. In particular, Issa is impressed with the involvement of The Star:

“For them to take that initiative and realise that they’re not only adding value to the community but adding value to visitors that are staying at their hotel and for their brand, kudos to them.”

Westerly Isbaih and her father have been making olive oil on the family farm in the Southern Tablelands for many years. As a result, Alto Olive Oil is regarded as one of the best in the world, winning prestigious awards in competitions against the best 900 producers globally. They supply businesses and sell products to consumers online and in selected stores, but growers markets represent an additional opportunity for them, especially since their location is so remote.

“Having a presence in a Sydney farmers markets is important, because that does give us direct access to customers.”

Isbaih likes to be able to talk about her products and answer questions for people:

“There is such a disconnect between people and food – where they buy their food and where it comes from…this helps bridge the gap.”

Alto is elite amongst olive oils in Australia – no small thing when you consider the very rigorous standards and testing conducted by the Australian Oil Association.

“What we’re trying to do – all of us – is produce the best possible product to raise the profile of the Australian olive industry as a whole… and to make the rest of the world stand up and pay attention to what we’re doing,” said Isbaih.

Two other businesses that have formed an alliance areThe Little Marionette Coffee and Black Star Pastry. Owners Ed Cutcliffe (Little Marionette) and Eddie Stewart (Black Star) are friends and often have a cooperative business relationship. At the PGM customers will be able to order both coffee and a pastry at either of their stalls. There is great camaraderie in general amongst vendors:

“All the butter in Black Star now is Pepe Saya. And Alto Olive Oil have been friends of ours for years so we may even have to put some on display at our stand, ” laughed Ed.

The Little Marionette supplies coffee to businesses around the country, and operates a number of cafes, their main one being Garcon at Tramsheds. With high streets being occupied more and more by shopping complexes, Ed feels there is a loss of community feel, which is another reason he loves growers markets:

“It gives us the opportunity to just talk coffee to the end consumer who wants to take some coffee home and ask more questions, they can do that at the markets. It’s rare that you get the opportunity to do that at a cafe.”

Black Star Pastry might be most well known for its signature cake: the Strawberry Watermelon cake, which they will be selling at Pyrmont Markets:

“If we didn’t have that there’d be a riot!” said owner, Eddie Stewart.

He too is excited about returning to Pyrmont:

“Out of all the growers markets it’s probably one of my favourites – the feel and the vibe of it, and the stallholders.”

It will be worth reserving one Saturday morning per month to come to Pyrmont Growers Market, as Tawnya Bahr says:

“Whether you’re a regular market goer or new to the markets, there’s something for every one.” (RB)

Launching Feb 25, then on 4th Saturday of each month, 7.30am-12pm, Pyrmont Bay Park, Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont (Opposite The Star). Info:

Info about stalls: Mick Roche

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