Tarana Markets: Community Produce, Smiles and Causes

Tarana Market Committee

The welcoming smiles of the Tarana Market Committee. L to R. Diana Ditchfield, Annie Cook, Beth Kornman, Seated Fay Shaw. (Tracie McMahon)

The very popular Tarana Markets are on the fourth Sunday of every month and provide an opportunity to meet local farmers, artisans and creative practitioners. The markets have been raising funds for the local Rural Fire Service (RFS) and community since 2015.

Key Points:

  • Tarana Farmers Market began as an initiative to raise funds for the RFS, enabling the purchase of thermal imaging cameras and Wi-Fi and security to be installed in the rural fire shed. 
  • The market has evolved to become a place for the community to connect and share ideas, particularly in times of drought and fire. 
  • Each month there are over forty stalls to peruse. Visitors can sample the quality and diversity of local products, learn about ‘life on the land’ from real farmers, or catch up with their own neighbours as they enjoy the music and welcoming smiles of this vibrant farming community. 

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A trip to Tarana Markets has been on my radar for months. I love the drive over the rollercoaster hills that stretch from South Bowenfels to Tarana. ‘Back in the day’ it was a glorious Sunday family outing to see the glassy waters of Lake Lyell, the golden trees of Sodwalls, and the rocky outcrop of Evans Crown. We would stop for a Tarana-tiger burger for lunch, followed by a swim at Flat Rock in summer, or a return trip via Meadow Flat if the weather was cool. As I drive into Tarana on a crisp June morning, I notice a new sign ‘Tarana – Where a smile and a wave are free.’ I smile just reading it.

The markets began in 2015 to raise funds for the local Rural Fire Service (RFS). Fay Shaw, a founding member of the Tarana Market Committee and longstanding member of the Tarana RFS, says they were trying to work out how to fund much needed equipment for their local RFS, when she attended a market in nearby Oberon. She looked at what they were doing and thought “we could do that!”  

Fay and a group of like-minded community members decided to set up the Tarana Community Farmers Market Inc. Their website tells their story:

Our primary purpose is to provide the opportunity for purchase of products direct from local farms and kitchens, where the produce is grown, livestock raised, and artisan products are made. Our customers meet the farmers, learn about how their food is produced, and our stall holders have a local outlet for sale of their products.

Money raised by the markets is used in support of the Tarana Rural Fire Service (RFS) or put towards other community projects. We have been able to provide useful equipment that helps enormously with the marvellous work the RFS does for our community. The Tarana Community Farmers Market proudly supports the Tarana Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade.

The markets were originally held in the RFS shed but were moved outside in 2020 when COVID protocols required. The move on to the nearby field created the opportunity for expansion and the market continued to grow.

I arrived at the June market at 9 am on a brisk morning. The site was already busy with a queue of appreciative coffee-drinkers and local band The Union entertaining the early birds.

live music at tarana markets

The early birds of the markets already laden with goodies and settling in with music and coffee. (Tracie McMahon)

The market now averages forty stallholders and the committee tells me their official audit of attendees, “the bacon and egg roll count,” once hit 1000 rolls consumed at a single market. The biggest attendances are usually in Spring and Summer with the January twilight market attracting a large crowd.

To select stalls, the committee applies the farmers’ market principle of ‘made, produced or grown locally’, considering ‘local’ to be within a fifty-kilometre radius of Tarana.  Only two of any product type is accepted to ensure diversity and quality.  Stallholders in June included soap and candle makers, woollen crafts, woodwork, vegetables and a ute-load of seedlings from the Lithgow Community District Nursery.

seedlings at tarana farmers market

A ute-load of seedlings silhouetted against the big skies and fields of a brisk Tarana morning. (Tracie McMahon)

Diana Ditchfield, market co-ordinator, tells me that stallholders say, “Tarana is their favourite market.” Not only do they enjoy the ‘country vibe’, but they also make more money.

It is this money that was one of the drivers for the market – money in the hands of local communities doing it tough in times of drought and money for the RFS for much-needed equipment. Stallholders are charged a fee and the committee runs a raffle each market.

Money raised by the market has funded the purchase and installation of Wi-Fi and security for the rural fire shed and thermal imaging cameras for use by the Tarana Brigade.  Equipment such as this is now funded by the Rural Fire Service. The markets now fund other community focused equipment and events including assisting with resurrecting the local cricket ground, installing water tanks, landscaping and hosting a popular ‘Christmas in July’ event in the fire shed.

tarana farmers market raffle

The raffle at Tarana Markets featuring donated produce from stallholders. (Tracie McMahon)

But it’s not just about the money.

Annie Cook, President of the committee, says it has “created a place of conversation.” The markets began during the drought, at a time when many farmers were working long hours to keep stock alive, watering and carting feed around the clock. They noticed more and more people were coming just to “sit and chat” with neighbours.

When the bushfires of 19/20 raged throughout Lithgow and surrounding areas, people would come to talk under the ash falling from smoke-filled skies, sharing the exhaustion of their community. The local RFS crew served a 24/7 volunteer stint for three months. The people in these crews are volunteers, with families, businesses and farms to care for. The brigade was supported by locals buttering countless loaves of bread and assembling food packs for the local crew to take with them so they could stay on the fireground when needed or just get there a little quicker. The families and neighbours of the volunteers also stepped up, assisting with the tasks usually tended by a ‘firie’ on duty.

The market now features covered seating and chairs, a constant supply of bacon and egg rolls and music. Today’s band comprises local musicians who have named themselves The Union after the Union Church in nearby Rydal, where they meet to practice.

The Union hammering out the tunes at 9.30 in the morning: beanies, beats and the blues. (Tracie McMahon)

The Union are just one of the creative acts that share the stage at Tarana Markets. The committee also offers an artist-in-residence programme, inviting local artists or crafts people along to spend a day at the markets, “doing their thing”.  Annie Cook explains: “visitors can chat to them about their art, and it’s an opportunity to present their works.”   

The importance of the market to the community has been recognised by the Wentworth Area Health Service supporting the market with a small grant. The additional funding allowed the committee to hold educational stalls like ‘the Snake Man’, and demonstrations such as beekeeping and shearing to educate locals and visitors about rural life.

I have to leave the market before I can sample every stall, but I tell the ladies of the committee I’ll be back. I was so busy chatting I didn’t get one of the famed bacon and egg rolls! As I drive out of Tarana, I spot the other side of the sign that welcomed me. It sums up so beautifully what this market is all about: ‘Be kind to each other.’

product from tarana farmers market

Some of the goodies I brought back from my trip to Tarana Markets. Something for everyone! (Tracie McMahon)

Take Action:

  • Visit the Tarana Markets from 9-1 pm on the fourth Sunday of every month at the Tarana Rural Fire Service, Sodwalls Road, Tarana.
  • Find out more about the markets at their website:  https://www.taranafarmersmarket.com/

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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

About Tracie McMahon

Tracie lives, writes and walks on the unceded lands of the Dharug, Gundungurra and Wiradjuri people. Born in Lithgow, she and her family have spent most of their lives living and working with the people and places of the Lithgow area. Her passions are nature and community, which she pursues through story, art, and volunteering in Lithgow and the Blue Mountains.

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