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University of Melbourne students are devastated by the cancellation of their beloved Wednesday Farmers’ Market.

A photograph of Farmers' Market stalls outside the MSD.

University of Melbourne students are devastated by the cancellation of their beloved Wednesday Farmer’s Market this semester. The market has been running for 40 years, and the University’s announcement on July 19th to close the stalls has shocked students and staff alike.

This decision comes after the market was put on hold for the greater part of 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Despite this hiatus, the market did return briefly for the first semester of 2021, but has ultimately been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

University of Melbourne PhD candidate and food influencer Adrian Marcato shared his fond memories of the Wednesday Farmers’ Market which marked the start of his University journey.

“I remember going for the first time during my undergraduate [degree] and it quickly became a place to meet up with friends. We would stroll through the square checking out all of the amazing produce, and smelling all of the amazing cooking! Everything was always so good! It really was a place to connect,” said Marcato.

With community and connection being more important than ever as Melburnians have come out of the world’s longest lockdown, the market also provided a safe and vibrant space for students, staff and even the wider Parkville community to connect over food.

Alex Rovaja, a Bachelor of Arts student originally from Canada, said it exposed them to the vast array of local, fresh and interesting produce.

“I’m from Canada and I haven’t had much scope to explore the local foodie scene. My schedule is packed and I value convenience above all. The Farmer’s Market exposed me to local produce I wouldn’t otherwise go out of my way to try. I remember buying finger limes for the first time and being absolutely in awe of them! We have nothing like them back home,’’ they said. 

The less than favourable decision to cease the market’s operation blindsided some of the stallholders as well. T Tashi operates the popular Himalayan-Tibetan food truck and described the impact of the closure on both him and his business. Although his truck continues to operate at the University on Monday and Thursday, these sessions are unable to financially compensate for the bustling Wednesday trade.

Tashi is fearful his business will suffer.

“It’s huge. It’s a big loss. We are losing lots of customers now. When it is advertised for Wednesday all the students come to chat and eat and it’s lovely. Obviously, the Thursdays and Mondays are way too slow compared to Wednesdays,’’ he explained.

He and his fellow stallholders remain unsure about the reasons for the cancellation, as the University gave them no reason or explanation for their decision.

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) issued a statement echoing students’ dismay, and highlighting the importance of affordable and accessible produce being available to University students.

“With more than 5000 students utilising the University’s Food Relief program every week, it is evident that there is a growing crisis of food insecurity amongst our student body … there needs to be more affordable, permanent food service providers on campus that can cater to students’ budgets amidst this cost-of-living crisis.’’

However, University representative Damian Glass has suggested there is some hope the markets may return, but did not provide specifics. 

“The University is optimistic the Farmer’s Market will return in 2023… [in the meantime] there are lots of food options on campus that students can access each day of the week,’’ he affirmed. 

While the Wednesday markets are a significant loss to campus life, students can still access fresh, affordable and local produce at the Melbourne Farmer’s Market held every weekend at locations across various inner-city suburbs. It is a fantastic way to keep up the community spirit, and support a non-for-profit organisation whilst also stocking up on a variety of seasonal groceries for the week. You can read more about the markets here

 

Note: this article was edited on 18 October 2022 to remove an interview excerpt.

Image Source: https://environment.unimelb.edu.au/home/events/events/farmers-market2

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Five 2022

EDITION SIX 'RETROFUTURISM' AVAILABLE NOW!

Our last print edition of 2022 is here! This wild, visionary edition is filled with burning nostalgia, glittering hope, and tantalising visions of the future, past, and present.

Read online