Opening the Farm Gate
Farm Gate Market takes over central Hobart’s Bathurst Street every Sunday and has done so for the past eight years. The insistence of its founder and manager, Madi Seeber-Peattie, that only Tasmanian artisanal food and fresh produce be personally sold by the producers means Farm Gate is now one of Australia’s top five farmers’ markets, contributing more than $11 million* to the Tasmanian economy last year.
Seeber-Peattie never thought she’d stay in one place long enough to establish a business, let alone such a successful enterprise as Farm Gate. Raised in a big Tassie family, she was raring to see the world. Forty different jobs before the age of 25 funded her wanderlust including banana picking, packing live fish for export and working as a croupier throughout her Bachelor of Commerce studies. She’s travelled around Australia and hitchhiked through America, but the last time she went on the road was to grieve the loss of her father to motor neurone disease.
Seeber-Peattie first sought answers in Varanasi then continued to London, but the city felt too grey. She travelled to the Isle of Wight where it was less bleak but just as cold, so she bought a puffer jacket and red sneakers. As she walked out of the shop a stranger gestured to her red shoes saying, “Dorothy, Wizard of Oz, no place like home”.
It suddenly hit her: she’d always been looking for home in her travels and it was there all along. Returning to Tasmania, Seeber-Peattie married a guy who had grown up on the next street, bought her father’s property in the Huon Valley and has never since felt the urge to leave.
She developed an events-management business, contracting to not-for-profit organisations. Working long hours for little return, she realised many Tasmanian small businesses were struggling and they’d probably all be better off working together. The idea for Farm Gate was born.
When Farm Gate’s trading bell rings at 8.30 on a Sunday morning there are 70 stalls along a temporarily traffic-free section of Bathurst Street, all with producers bustling to get ready for the rush. Producers like Bavarian-born Antonia and Joe Gretschmann of Elgaar cheese and The Grain Family, big-handed Cam McKenzie of Cygnet Woodfired Bakehouse, the pork-passionate Ross O’Meara of Bruny Island Food and many selling freshly harvested fruit and vegetables. The market credo is: “Know thy farmer”.
At the nine-stall Grub Hub, The Flipped Egg serves quinoa porridge and locally roasted Straight Up coffee, while Señor Frijoles does empañadas for carnivores and vegetarians. The Bub Hub is a grassed area with loads of toys. And, like most things at Farm Gate, the buskers are carefully handpicked.
In 2015, Farm Gate won silver at the Australian Tourism Awards for Excellence in Food Tourism. Seeber-Peattie’s latest creation is Street Eats @ Franko, an “urban fusion of flavours, textures, people and place”.
A Farm Gate standard, Lady Hester Sourdough Donuts, sells exactly that, with Middle Eastern-inspired seasonal filings such as whisky and hazelnut praline topped with white chocolate. These sweet-making sisters are now Seeber-Peattie’s market barometer. “If they sell out by 11 o’clock, it’s been a good market,” she says.
*Calculation based on Farm Gate figures, the 200 producers that attend across the year and the number of fixed businesses now open on Sundays since relocation to Bathurst Street three years ago. (Madi Seeber-Peattie)