Bellingen's farmers markets continue providing an essential service

People who love to buy fresh food direct from the grower will be glad to hear farmers markets, like supermarkets, are considered an essential service and are exempt from the current coronavirus shutdowns.

Both the fortnightly Saturday Bellingen Growers Market and the weekly Wednesday Bellingen Farmers and Producers Market are still operating, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

However, the Wednesday markets have temporarily shifted to a new location; instead of being at the showgrounds, they will be outdoors at 84-90 Hyde St, the old Carl Foster's garage site.

"I'm still working with council to look at other options, because that space is in transition, as most of the community knows," market organiser Louise Hensby said. "But the owner has generously made it available for now."

She said that unlike previously, the market won't be serving food or coffee.

"At this stage we're taking it week by week as to what the market is able to offer according to legislation and requirements. As a farmers market, our priority is to provide fresh produce direct from farmers."

Louise emphasised that "every step and measure" will be taken to ensure public health and safety.

"We will be limiting numbers of people to come into the space, even though it's in the open air. We'll have volunteers wearing fluro vests monitoring how many are there at any one time. We won't have crowds and stall line-ups will be managed."

The key message is to please stagger your attendance and be patient.

"Don't all come at starting time. There will be produce available for the duration of the market," Louise said.

Until Daylight Saving ends, the hours will remain 3.30pm until 6.30pm, however Louise said the market may close earlier depending on patronage and weather.

From April 8, the markets will run from 2.30pm to 5.30pm.

Louise is also preparing for the market to offer online ordering within the next few weeks.

"People will be able to put their orders online and we'll do a phase one situation where they come and pick up at the market. The next phase will be physical delivery but we need a refrigerated truck and a driver for that."

She added it was crucial for people to help the market survive these difficult times.

"If we don't support local now, then we're not going to have local food in six months' time. Because the farmers won't keep going if people aren't buying local.

"We need people to patronise farmers markets. It's healthy, it's local, it's low food miles, it's good for the environment, it's affordable."

Louise said most of their produce comes from Bellingen Shire or the Nambucca Valley. There's also organic, pasture-raised pork and poultry coming from Gracemere Farmstead near Casino.

The next Bellingen Farmers and Producers Market is tomorrow, Wednesday March 25, from 3.30pm to 6.30pm.

Bellingen Growers Market is held every 2nd and 4th Saturday at the showgrounds and the next one is March 28, from 8am to 1pm.