Farmer's gate roadside stalls are my favourite place to shop. Buying direct from the farmer is a great way to source local seasonal food. The produce is typically super fresh and costs far less than what you would pay elsewhere. I especially love the unpredictability of roadside stall shopping. For me, stopping at a stall or two adds a sense of adventure to an otherwise boring car trip.
Walk into a supermarket at any time of year and you can predict what produce you’ll find. In contrast, roadside stalls evolve with the seasons.
I used to zoom past roadside stalls. I focused on the destination and didn’t like the idea of adding a few minutes to my trip. I have since embraced the idea of slow travel and consider farm gate shopping an opportunity to support a farmer and grab a bargain. I now stop at most roadside stalls I pass at least once. Some stalls are a disappointment and aren’t visited again. Others are a delightful surprise and are revisited every time I pass by.
My favourite farm gate trail is Tourist Route33. When travelling home to the Hunter Valley from Sydney, my trip is punctuated with frequent stops and I arrive home with a haul of produce. My first stop, not long after turning off the freeway at Calga, is at an avocado farm where a bag of avocados costs only $5. A little further along Peats Ridge Road is the honey farm and then the strawberry farm. Tucked down a driveway in Kulnura is my favourite stall of the route. The contents of this small honesty stall changes with the seasons and I never know what I’ll find when I pull open the curtain. Last visit, I was excited to find giant cabbages for only $1 and limes, lemons and chokos for just 20¢ each.
When travelling along unfamiliar roads, I keep an eye out for stalls. I have often wished for a map of roadside stalls. Much to my delight, my wish has been granted.
Sonya Yell recently launched RoadStalls.com.au – a directory of roadside stalls. Sonya has "always loved buying from road stalls" but found that even she was zooming past them. "I wanted to provide a reliable way for people to find stalls" Sonya says.
Sellers list their stall, outlining what they sell and opening hours. Buyers explore a map to find stalls in their area.
The directory is not restricted to farmers. Urban gardeners can also list driveway stalls to sell their excess produce. Even if it’s "just a bucket of chokos" suggests Sonya.
The web-based directory was launched only a month ago and already 300 stalls are listed. I’ll be using the directory when planning car trips from now on.
I have already started selecting stalls I would like to visit. Next summer on my way to the south coast, I’ll be detouring slightly to pick up prickly pear fruit and figs from Leppington Valley Farm in Western Sydney. I also hope to find a reason to be travelling along Bucketts Way near Stroud on a Saturday morning so that I can visit the Two Men & a Pumpkin Roadside Stall.
I’m looking forward to watching the directory grow and hope that encourages more people to buy direct from farmers.
To find a stall near you, or to list your own roadside stall, visit RoadStalls.com.au.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 16th June 2014.