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June 06, 2017, New Zealand

To market, to market

Fresh produce direct from growers and producers in New Zealand attracts tourists from the world over, discovers David Bowden

David Bowden

EVERYONE loves a farmers’ market. Three of New Zealand’s quirky fresh produce markets are found at Dunedin Railway Station on the South Island, Featherston in the Wairarapa, and the Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri on the North Island.

Most markets are held over the weekend; these three markets operate on Saturday mornings and into the early afternoons so everyone – from school children to professionals – can find time to visit the markets.

In addition to selling fresh produce and products, these markets also serve as a social venue in many small towns scattered across New Zealand’s two islands. Many come to chat over coffee and budding musicians busk for cash while others raise much needed funds for local charities.

For visitors, it is the best time to snap up bargains, discover new products and meet local farmers who are passionate and happy to talk about the produce they grow.

Otago Farmers’ Market, Dunedin

I went to the ornately decorated Dunedin Railway Station to catch a train but discovered that the Otago Farmers’ Market was to expand over sections of the platform and into the railway carpark the next day.

After my thrilling train journey on the Taieri Gorge Railway, a plan was hatched to visit the market between 8am and 12.30pm the next day.

Dunedin is known as a city of talent with an edginess and quirkiness that comes from being a student city (New Zealand’s first university, the University of Otago is located here) and this shows through in the 65 or so stalls operated within what is considered one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.

Shop for items ranging from berries grown on the Taieri Plains, fresh quince, locally grown rhubarb, cheeses, wild venison salami, fresh breads and pastries, and New Zealand’s famous honey.

Like most farmers’ markets, the Otago Farmers’ Market showcases enthusiastic local producers who grow, make, rear, catch or prepare their own produce and offer it directly to eager consumers.

Old Packhouse Market, Kerikeri

I was greeted at the entrance of the Old Packhouse Market by “Mr Bubbles”, who was creating huge colourful bubbles that drifted over the market.

His name is Keith Earl, and his kaleidoscopic bubbles suggested immediately that these markets would be unlike any others I had encountered.

Kerikeri is noted for its fruit and semi-tropical climate. The old fruit packing shed is put to good use every Saturday from 8am to 1.30pm as farmers and artisans showcase their products, ranging from whitebait (minute fish similar to ikan bilis and typically eaten as fritters) to jewellery, beeswax candles, clothes, plants and Maori elixirs.

The region’s biggest market draws locals from near and far. There is a real sense of community with musicians and henna hand-painting plus food stalls offering enticing items such as oyster po’boy sandwiches, mussel fritters, pies and hangi (Maori dishes cooked on hot rocks buried in the ground).

Kerikeri is located in the winterless north of the Bay of Islands just 40 minutes by air from Auckland.

Featherston Market, Wairarapa

The smallest of the three markets, Featherston is one of the most accessible as it is located in the Wairarapa region, just an hour by train from Wellington, New Zealand’s capital.

The Wairarapa offers a wonderful opportunity for a day or weekend escape. The Saturday morning to mid-afternoon market located at the rear of Lang’s Pharmacy carpark on the main street is the place to start your visit.

Some of the seasonal highlights here are apples, avocados and vegetables as well as flowers and plants. Crafts are also available and Scotty’s Meats barbecue is a huge crowd-pleaser.

The locals also enjoy snacking on Laughing Owl fudge, whitebait fritters, venison burgers, hot dogs and burgers.

Doggy Deli especially appeals to dog lovers as they can buy artisanal deli products for their dogs.

Drive or catch the train from Wellington to Masterton and alight at Featherston for the short walk to the market and then use public transport to explore some of the region’s attractions including spectacular coastlines, agricultural valleys and quaint colonial townships including Greytown, Martinborough, Carterton and Masterton.

Other markets in the Wairarapa include Greytown Country Market and the Wairarapa Farmers’ Market in Masterton. The Featherston Christmas Market in December is a special event with organisers aiming to grow it to be like a European Advent market.

GuideLines

I flew direct from Singapore to Auckland on Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.co.nz). Wellington, Dunedin and Kerikeri are all accessible via domestic flights from Auckland.

New Zealand is best explored via a rental vehicle although the markets in Featherston and Dunedin are located at or near railway stations for travellers using public transport.

- Featherston: the White Swan in neighbouring Carterton is a boutique heritage hotel (www.thewhiteswan.co.nz)

- Dunedin: Distinction Dunedin Hotel is a luxury heritage property located in the former Post Office (www.distinctionhotels.co.nz)

- Kerikeri: Kerikeri Court Motel (www.kerikericourtmotel.co.nz)

- Old Packhouse Market (wwwtheoldpackhousemarket.co.nz) 

- Otago Farmers Market (www.otagofarmersmarket.org.nz) 

- Wairarapa Tourism (www.wairarapa.com)

- Tourism New Zealand (www.tourismnewzealand.com)

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