I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve lived in the Hills District for some time now but had never ventured to the growers’ markets at Castle Hill Showground. My only excuse really is that markets and toddlers aren’t the greatest mix. Yeah, I’ll stick with that.
The markets kick off at the very civilised time of 8am (and wrap up at midday). No need to get anywhere at the crack of dawn. Although from looking at the queue for a much-coveted bacon and egg roll, it would appear that some regulars maybe ARE getting here at sunrise!
What I instantly noticed about these markets was that people were really committed and were buying up big time! These weren’t perusers or serial samplers. These people were buying their food for the week or the fortnight. They had bags (specific market-acceptable bags I will add) laden with goods, hanging off both arms. I was instantly impressed but realised they may spot the new-comer. I tried to blend in with a swift purchase of some herbs. That should assist with my street cred.
There was Graham, the elderly gentleman who has been coming to the markets since they began. Then there was the young mum who spent $194.90 on meat. Now that’s commitment. She wasn’t purchasing an almond croissant or a pack of snags (like someone else I know), she was purchasing her family’s meat for several (hopefully many) meals. And there was the lady chatting to her preferred barista about where his side-kick was that week. These were regulars who had forged relationships with these growers and producers. And that’s at the core of these types of markets. Love it!
Let’s cover a few administrative things at this point. Parking was fine and we were even there on the morning of an annual horse show at the showground. Imagine it’s no problem sans horses. It was busy – there’s the standard little bit of elbow-jostle at the very popular stalls and significant queues for the good stuff (like bacon and egg rolls). There’s an area in the middle with lots of tables and chairs where you can sample all your purchases. There’s no shade though so bring a hat if it’s a warm day. And don’t forget some authentic looking market bags for your goodies!
So what’s on offer? Well, pretty much everything you’d expect at a growers’ market. Fruit and veg, flowers, herbs, meat, coffee, artisan bread, cheeses, olives and olive oils, pasta, sweet things, and jams, chutney and preserves … and pet snacks and the knife-sharpening dude. As is often the case, there’s a focus on fresh seasonal produce, local agriculture and small business. And this is what makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about going to a market – supporting people that are passionate about their produce and their region. Or was that my freshly baked almond croissant giving me that feeling? Whatever it is, I’ll be back to feel it again for sure. So escape one Saturday morning and meet a girlfriend there for a couple of hours. You could probably even get away with saying you’re going to do the food shopping!
The Hawkesbury Harvest Farmers and Fine Food Markets run on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 8am – 12noon. Entry to the Showground is via Showground Road Castle Hill. (A new set of traffic lights between Gilbert and Carrington Rd).