In the din of the old blacksmith’s workshop shed in the back streets of Redfern/Darlington is the jewel of the inner city farmers’ market circuit – the weekly Carriageworks Market. Each Saturday the huge shed comes to life with the friendly ruckus of 70 plus stall holders and thousands of food-focused shoppers, framed at one end by the profuse rainbow blooms of Mayfarm Flowers and Jonima at the other. This Saturday morning market, showcasing the best of NSW producers, is a gorgeous and vibrant weekend ritual for friends and families looking for the best food on offer. It’s a chance to connect with producers and stall holders in ways that conventional shopping no longer affords us – and from a coffee as you peruse the new seasons apples to an armful of seasonal blooms or a packet of pasta for later, it’s a food interaction that beckons you to become involved with what we eat on a deeper level.[fold]

“Markets have a great sense of community,” says Pierre Issa of Pepe Saya Butter whose products are available at the Country Valley stall each week. “Shopping at Coles and Woollies is not adding value to the community. At the markets you can chat to producers and ask questions.” It’s that deeper connection that is a driving reason why the butter maker not only retails his produce at the market, but mans the stall nearly every week as well.

“It’s great. It’s getting the farmers and producers into an area with five to ten-thousand people who can ask you about the product and learn more.” And Chef Alex Herbert agrees.

“It’s very real being at the markets,” aays the chef, who is best known for her late Surry Hills restaurant Bird Cow Fish, and who has had a stall of the same name feeding shoppers since day one of the Carriageworks Market, formerly Eveleigh Market, four years ago. “For me, I’m cooking and serving in a context where people are buying food to cook for themselves. It’s a lovely connection. We’re feeding people while they are working towards feeding themselves.”

For Herbert, the one-on-one interactions and the connections that are forged through face-to-face contact with customers are the reason that she continues to put in time serving on the stall each weekend.

“Just talking for one minutes every week for four years means we’ve got to know each other quite deeply. That’s special. As a chef I was always in the kitchen – so I haven’t always had that raw, real connection.”

Get our pick of the best news, features and events delivered twice a week

With that in mind, here’s our pick of the favourite weekly vendors who wear their passion and love for what they do on their sleeve at the markets each and every weekend.

Fruit and Veg
For the best seasonal and local organic veg head to Champion’s Mountain Organics where you’ll find garlic, eggs, tomatoes and a hefty range of what’s in season all from the Mangrove Mountain area. Block 11 Organics also has a beautiful and organic spread of vegetables from Canowindra, Nashville and Richmond. While at the Achacha stall they are single-handedly raising awareness of the achacha fruit and all its uses – from jam to juice. For specialty mushrooms chat to the team at The Fungi stall to find out what’s in season, how they are grown and what to do with all things mushroom.

A trip to the market wouldn’t be complete without some freshly baked bread for the week. Every Saturday Sonoma Baking Co. (link to article) bakes fresh for the market, bringing their signature sourdough as well as trays of cinnamon morning buns. A more recent addition is the Bread & Butter Project - brought to Eveleigh by the Bourke Street Bakery crew, the project is a social enterprise initiative that provides skills, training and support for the less advantaged to learn bakery craft. At the market the team happily spreads the word and explains the project, as well as stocking some magnificent loaves.

The Country Valley stall includes produce from Highland Organic Cheese, Cedar Creek Juice, Small Cow Cheese and Pepe Saya products. Stop by for milk, cream, buttermilk and cultured Pepe Saya (link to article) butter. Grab a dairy pack for some great value.

Mirrool Creek Lamb has a thoroughly stocked cold case of free-range pasture-fed lamb from the Riverina. Specials usually focus on making the most of the season (think shanks for winter) and there’s plenty of helpful advice if you want to know more about what to do with each cut.

On the spot snacks
For breakfast at the market look for the Billy Kwong stall, manned by chef Kylie Kwong. You can’t miss the oversized Chinese steamers merrily puffing away on the benches turning out Kwong’s signature dishes including steamed pancakes with egg, saltbush and a profusion of fresh herbs, or puffy steamed buns and fat, fragrant dumplings. Just over the way you’ll find chef Alex Herbert at her Bird Cow Fish stall turning out her famous crooked madam breakfast toasties bursting with shaved ham, fried egg and Gruyere cheese and Dijon, as well as flaky pastries and cakes. The queues at both stalls can be long but are well worth the breakfast wait.

Carriageworks Farmers’ Market
243 Wilson Street, Darlington

Every Saturday 8am–1pm