The farm comes to Sydney Saturday mornings in Darlinghurst
A FARMERS’ MARKET, the Transition Towns movement and Sydney’s emerging collaborative economy come together with live music, good food and the smell of freshly brewed coffee on Saturday mornings at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst. This is Sydney Sustainable Markets. It’s small but diverse. The market is hard to miss as it occupies the plaza on the northern side of Taylor Square where Oxford Street’s traffic diverges to the Eastern Suburbs or continues towards Bondi Junction and on to Bondi Beach. This is a busy crossroads for both traffic and pedestrians and it’s a prime location for a market. a
Here you find Michael Champion’s organic herbs and vegetables grown in the Mangrove Mountain area just north of the city—with Kurrajong Organics one of the fresh vegetable and fruit sellers at the market. There’s Sydney LETS (Local Exchange and Trading System), the community trading exchange; apiarist Doug Purdie’s urban honey, including authentic Darlinghurst honey produced in his inner city hives; Michelle Margolis selling her permaculture diary and calendar and doing a talk on the permaculture design system; sellers of artisan preserves and jams; a range of food that you can sit and eat at one of the hessian-draped tables and, today, the Great Aussie Swap organised by Transition Sydney’s partner Driscoll and partner Christine. The Swap and LETS make up the collaborative economy part of the market. This is an emerging community economy based on monetary exchange of goods and sevice as well as redistribution initiatives like the swap.
Today, people have brought what they want to swap… things such as the clothing, books, music CDs, children’s toys, tools and other stuff laid out on the long tables.
Contributors are given a number of tokens (sourced from Reverse Garbage on the other side of Taylor Square). The market opens with an explanation of how it works and participants then have a set time to take a look at what is on offer. Swapping then starts with tokens handed in for each item taken amid a flurry of activity.
Where more than one person wanted the same item, a scissors/stone/wood game determines who gets it. It’s all amicable. While the City of Sydney provides assistance to the market, it’s people like Peter Driscoll and Christine who help make it happen. The couple live nearby, high above Oxford Street in an apartment and are active in the Green Strata organisation (Christine was on the panel
for the launch of the City of Sydney’s Green Apartments program in September 2011).
As it is for all businesses, location is important to Sydney Sustainable Market. Located on the crossroads, it is also on the main pedestrian and cycle route connecting Sydney’s central business district with the Oxford Street shopping strip, the cafe cluster along Crown Street and the Paddington commercial strip further along. Its location makes the market both a destination and a fortuitious find for passing foot and bicycle traffic. The market’s location eliminates the need to provide car parking. The car-bound few might find limited parking in the side streets if they are lucky, however this is a market for the self-propelled and those capable of getting on a bus.
Sydney Sustainable Market is more than shopping destination. It’s a place to linger and this is what people do, buying morning tea and a fresh coffee from the stalls and sitting around one of the tables to talk or, this morning, to listen to the young guy with guitar providing the live music.
It’s the the stay-and-linger ambience and the opportunity to participate in the swap that makes Sydney Sustainable Market a temporary ‘place’ in the placemaking concept used by planners and advocates of urbanism. It’s a place for people and a place to find good food whether that’s the basics of fruit and vegetables from one of the organic growers’ stalls or value-added basics such as the preserves, jams and honey.
Small in size it might be, Sydney Sustainable Market is a human scale intervention in the inner urban streetscape that brings the vitality and interest to our urban areas that they need to become convivial and desirable places to visit and live in.