There’s something undeniably appealing about shopping at a farmers’ market – basket in hand, wandering from stall to stall picking and tasting the best produce and goods that the season (and the area) has to offer. Farmers’ markets are a place where you can connect and chat with the people who grow, bake, harvest or catch your next meal.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, farmers’ markets have become even more important. Speaking to The Guardian, the president of the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association and manager of the Bendigo farmers’ market, Chris Hain said the weekly farmers’ market in Castlemaine has more than doubled its number of stalls. “Market data shows a sales increase of between 10 and 30 per cent since the pandemic began,” he said.

So, where should you go if you’re looking for delicious, seasonal and regional food in the Bendigo region? These farmers’ markets are some of the best in Victoria.

Castlemaine locals know to arrive early at the weekly Wednesday farmers’ market because the fresh, creamy milk from micro-dairy Stellar Farmhouse Creamery sells out quickly. Once you’ve got your milk and yoghurt (sold in reusable/returnable glass containers) head to the Peddling Pastry stall where chef Chris Edwards has a loyal following who line up for his decadent brownies, buttery brioche, sublime ‘cloud biscuits’ and savoury tarts. And at the Sunday market keep your eyes peeled for the gorgeous ‘gin bug’ (a 1972 VW Beetle) from Big Tree Distillery.

When and where: Every Wednesday 3.30 – 6pm (Summer hours) and the first Sunday of each month (except January) 9 – 1pm. The Western Reserve, Forest Street, Castlemaine.

Delicious treats at the Peddling Pastry stall

One of the joys of visiting farmers’ markets is stopping by stalls and learning about the different produce and products, and the people behind them. At Bendigo farmers’ market you’ll meet stallholders like Marita who came up with the idea of Pink Muesli (made from beetroot) when she was diagnosed with high blood pressure or Greta, the creator of Bendigo Brittle, whose friends and family encouraged her to start selling her wildly popular Christmas gift of nutty, sweet, salty peanut brittle (based on a recipe created by her grandmother who lived near Elmore). Whichever stall you stop at, you’re sure to find delicious food and a great story to go with it.

When and where: Every 2nd Saturday of the month – the Bendigo Pony Club, corner Breen Street and Belle Vue Road, Golden Square from 9am – 1pm. And the weekly ‘mini market’ right in the heart of the Bendigo City Centre at The Good Loaf Thursday from 3 – 5.30pm.

Bendigo Brittle

From pillowy handmade gnocchi and jars of homemade preserves to fresh eggs and citrus fruits, this farmers’ market is one of the best things to do in Echuca. Each season brings its own delights – keep your eyes out for locally grown Hass avocados and imperial mandarins in winter and glossy red cherries and juicy apricots in early summer.

When and where: 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturday of each month 8am – 12 noon, Echuca Alton Reserve, 19 Snowden Street, Echuca.

For sourdough bread so fresh it’s still warm, you can’t beat the Kyneton farmers’ market. This farmer’s market has been running for 16 years and has around 50 stalls each month selling all kinds of delicious produce including ethically raised and processed lamb, Asian greens, grass fed beef, pasture raised eggs and seasonal fruit and vegetables.

When and where: Every second Saturday of each month from 8 am to 1pm, St Paul’s Park, Piper Street, Kyneton.

Kyneton Farmers Market – photo credit Rob Blackburn

If you fancy wandering through stalls piled high with locally grown fresh produce while your kids have their face painted (for free), head to Riddells Creek farmers’ market where you can also pick up a ‘fancy chook’ or two for your backyard. This is a bustling market where the best kept secret is the OMG Decadent Donuts stall with their divine vegan and gluten-free sweet treats.

When and where: Every third Saturday of each month (except December where a twilight market is held on the 2nd Friday of the month) from 9 am to 1 pm, Memorial Drive next to Riddells Creek Primary School.

Looking for a way to get a taste of regional Victoria without the travel? Check out these online marketplaces supporting Victorian farmers:

Victorian Country Market – an extensive online selection of fresh produce and artisan products from Victorian farmers and producers.

Victorian Farmers Direct – fresh Victorian farm products delivered.

Victorian Regional Food Network – an online farmers’ market available 24/7.

Words by Lindy Alexander

Cover image credit Rob Blackburn