Carriageworksby Nicole Partridge
With the charm of a French country market juxtaposed against late Victorian industrial architecture, the Carriageworks Farmers’ Market, located 4km south of Sydney’s central business district, is a popular shopping destination for both Sydneysiders and tourists. Eveleigh Carriageworks, as it was originally known, is the heritage-listed former NSW Government rail yards. Built between 1880 and 1889, the yards and buildings were used for the maintenance and repair of steam train locomotives, and for 100 years formed the largest workshop of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The site was decommissioned in 1920.
In 2006, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects was contracted by the NSW Government to transform the precinct into a multi-purpose arts centre that now includes three theatre spaces, rehearsal rooms, administrative offices, workshop spaces and amenities. Along with six resident multi-disciplinary companies, Carriageworks also plays host to some of Australia’s largest festivals and events, including Mercedes Benz Fashion week, the Sydney Writers’ Festival and Vivid. Each Saturday, the precinct is transformed into a bustling under-cover growers’ market. Farmers from all over NSW haul in their produce and set up stalls in the large vaulted steel shed. Everything from organic fruit and vegetables to cold-drip coffee, pasta, artisan bread and boutique wine is on offer.
Weekends are abuzz with activity as more than 5,000 shoppers flock to meet the farmers directly and sample the best of NSW’s freshest seasonal produce. Adding variety to the market experience are curated summer and winter night markets that feature some of Australia’s most renowned chefs and producers, along with cooking demonstrations and live music.
Not to be outdone by its European counterparts, the precinct comes alive in December with popular Christmas markets that sell everything from wine to ceramics to candles.
Journalist Nicole Partridge asked shoppers and workers at Carriageworks why they choose to come here.
Gabriel: We love the Farmers’ Market for a number of reasons. It’s very social. We’ll often meet up with a group of friends, and then we’ll have a chat with the local producers, who seem all very interested in talking with us about what they’re selling.
It’s great that we can buy seasonal fresh food that’s good for us. I’ll often fill up a family-sized cart each week, which is enough to feed my large extended family. Parking is good, and the markets are close to home, so it’s perfect for us.
Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market has become a bit of a date morning for my husband and me. We come every Saturday because it’s one of the few markets in Sydney that actually sells organic groceries. Typically, I go home with the staples: garlic, onion, leek and carrots. I’ll also add some leafy greens and a good selection of meats and fish. I can get all my vegetables for less than $30, which I think is very reasonable.
Everything is super fresh. One time I was picking up a vegetable, and the farmer was like, “Oh sorry, that one’s a bit dirty – I picked it this morning and didn’t have time to give it a wash.” I think the markets are so popular because there is so much variety, it’s organic, and you can form relationships with the farmers.
I used to be a regular customer who was just really interested in the food and where it came from, and then I met a business owner who taught me how to plant herbs and seedlings. Now I work here one day a week.
I love the family dynamic between the store holders. Everyone looks out for each other. I also love chatting with my customers and find that many of them are interested in where their food comes from. They appreciate that the farmers have handpicked their produce on the day.
Aesthetically, I love the high ceilings and the sense of space, and there’s an added bonus: on any given week, there might be a free art exhibition in one of the heritage buildings. Every month, Carriageworks showcases a top-end chef, which is also a bonus. Today we have a cheesemaker giving a half-hour presentation.
Friendship brings us to the markets. Every week a group of us will do our vegetable shopping first, and then we meet and have a coffee and croissants, and then one of us will recite poetry. It’s very much about connecting with each other and developing a sense of community.
It’s like a French market out in the country where you can stroll up and down, taste the produce, and form relationships with the stallholders. It’s all so personal. And the upshot is that the market is covered, which means wind, rain, any type of weather, we can come.
The parking is easy, and there are cooking demonstrations and free entry into the galleries. I think the market suits our personalities – very eclectic.
The market is unique because it’s one of the only markets in the Sydney metropolitan area where people can bring their dogs. I see dogs at other markets tied up to posts on the outside, looking forlorn and waiting for an appointment with a doggy psychologist. Here the dogs are just as welcome as the people.
The food is also fresh and delicious and juicy, and that’s because it’s usually been handpicked the night before. There is taste in the avocados and the mushrooms, and the miso soup is authentic. I like that the 25 varieties of artisan breads are made in little backyard kitchens.
I’ll usually come here with my two bags, and I’ll take time to have a chat with some of the local characters, like the French guy who manufactures saucissson sec, which is wet and dry sausage.
Being able to bring my dog Munchie to the markets is a big thing for me. I work all week, and Munchie is on her own, so on Saturdays we go for a 20-minute walk and stroll the markets together.
I love that there is so much variety here and that I can buy local produce. Munchie has enjoyed being patted by lots of people. The Inner West has a big dog population, and it’s a dog-friendly area. I see a lot of dogs at the markets, big and small. It’s good for Munchie to socialise.
Each month the markets bring in a well-known celebrity chef like Kylie Kwong, and she’ll do a cooking demonstration, which I find really interesting.
Nicole Partridge is a Sydney-based journalist who works with major media and publishing brands.
This article appeared in Exchange Issue No. 2, which explores the changing nature of the retail sector with contributions and design analysis from leading retailers, developers, consultants and more.Read more