by JOHN MOYLE
It’s been a crazy few weeks under isolation and everyone has their own personal version of how they are coping or not.
Even before the lockdown started there was panic buying of toilet paper that seized the popular imagination in a feeble attempt of empowerment against the unknown. For a while there was a fear that food supplies could be affected but to a large extent this has been averted.
For many the federal government’s stimulus package has been welcomed, but many still fall through the cracks – and none more than the hundreds of small traders who are the stallholders in our many farmers’ markets across Australia.
For many stall holders it all came crashing down in late March when a pandemic was declared and many markets quickly closed, with no economic safety nets. Kings Cross Markets did their best to adapt to the new conditions, but, in their last trading day on 28 March, came under extensive fire via comments on social media and decided to go into hibernation.
With the easing of gathering rules the Kings Cross Markets will be resuming this weekend, 2-3 May, albeit for fresh food traders only and with strict implementation of social distancing and hand sanitation.
How the stall holders have handled their time in social and business isolation is an interesting snapshot of how many in the wider community have coped.
Reinstalling community pride
Chloe Uepa operates All Things Acai, a popular food stall with a devoted following who had to reimagine her business when the markets ceased trading. “Initially, when it happened I was like everybody else – in a state of shock, and we needed confidence to see what lies ahead,” Chloe said. “You are scared about what is happening and about your viability and how you are going to live.”
All Things Acai not only trades at the markets but also provides food products to corporate functions, which all came to an immediate halt. “We looked at our current online channels and those of our suppliers and we created a platform to deliver our products during this hibernation period,” Chloe said.
The business also used the downtime to look at their business model and see how it could be adjusted for the future. “We looked at how we can adjust our business model to the changes that are happening now but also the changes that might happen later as we don’t know how this is going to affect future consumer behaviour,” Chloe said.
The consistent supply of fresh seafood is one area of the food market that has been impacted with uncertainty of supply lines as air transport routes from New Zealand, Western Australia and the Top End are affected.
Carl Wellock owns Peyton Blu Royale, the popular Kings Cross Markets stall and has been getting by doing home deliveries and working seven days a week. “Having the markets come back is going to be absolutely fantastic as it’s been tough during the downtime,” Carl said.
Birgitta Koomens is the well-known face of her eponymous bakery stall and has been a fixture at the markets for 20 years. Like most of the other stall holders she has adapted by doing home deliveries, with no delivery charge, along with special orders, but while her turnover has been decimated there have been some bright moments in the quietness of corona.
“I did a cake for someone who had been in Australia for a year and she wanted something with an Australian flag on it to celebrate at home alone,” Birgitta said. Like every other stall holder returning this weekend the markets are not just part of their lives, for many it is their life.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back because the Kings Cross people are my family and I love catching up with everybody,” Birgitta said.
While we are experiencing a relaxation of how we can shop and make human contact, we must also realise that the silent killer is not yet finished and that the stall holders are returning aware that without the proper consideration of social distancing and hygiene by the public, they are in the front line of risk.
Let’s use the markets, don’t abuse the markets – or you will lose the markets – and stay safe.