Ah, Farmers Markets—the promised land of fancy cheese, honey, soap, vegetables and cute flower stands that cottage-core dreams are made of. More importantly, Farmers Markets are touted as a pillar of sustainability in the 21st century. Vendors are usually local farmers, meaning that transport emissions are significantly reduced. Products are usually made in small batches, by small business owners, so there’s less of a sense of the faceless mass production that so often comes with shopping at the local supermarket. Additionally, products—especially produce—don’t come wrapped in single use plastic.
There’s a general consensus that Farmers Markets are good for the environment, and good for you—you know where the food is produced, and vendors often market themselves as organic, sustainable and local. But in as big a city as Auckland, there are dozens of markets to choose from. Some are big, some are small, some are expensive and some are affordable. Which is the best? The team breaks it down.
Everyone who has lived in Auckland for more than two weeks has heard of the Matakana Farmers Market. People rave about this one all the time, and I have been dragged along on more than one occasion. It’s a bit of a hefty drive, and unless you’re down to carpool, there’s no other way to get there. I mean, you could probably find a bus if you’re desperate but it’s an hour North, so it would take most of the day for a trip up. Once you’re there though, the vibes are: gentrified small town, but in the best possible way. There are so many cute vendors to choose from. Lots of fresh fruit and veg, locally sourced seafood and meats, and lots of fresh flowers, honey and cheese. It’s the perfect backdrop to prance around in a white linen dress. Shout out goes to Harrygarlik, who grows delicious fresh produce and makes yummy pickled garlic for an extra fancy touch. – Naomii
Cottage-core fantasy: 10/10
This farmers market, despite its somewhat rocky schedule over the past three years, is a staple of West Auckland weekends. It takes place on the Kumeu Showgrounds, in a couple of massive sheds. This makes it ideal for escaping the clogged CBD, and living your farmer fantasy, without bowing down to Fonterra and committing to picking up shit at the crack of dawn. The market is divided into two sections: kai and NZ-made arts and crafts. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s always some cheese and bread hanging around. Sometimes if you’re lucky there will be crepes flipping up a storm at the entrance. It’s also pretty lively, with buskers playing some sweet tunes to wake you up on a dusty Sunday morning. The event is more occasional than most, occurring every third weekend of the month, but it’s on rain or shine so you can head out with 100% confidence you’ll be chowing down on some goodies. Unfortunately, there’s basically no way around driving out west, unless you’re up to catch a couple of buses. But, the coffee is good and the scenery is a nice break from the smoggy city skyline. It’s a good opportunity to take your brain out of your head and… I don’t know, touch some grass? – Maddy
Cottage-core fantasy: 9/10
If you’re looking for farmers market escapism without leaving the city and feel like spending too much money on coffee and pastries, this might be the place for you. I decided to check out Britomart’s Saturday Market at Takutai Square last week, which recently returned after closing due to COVID-19. Self-described as “Auckland’s favourite inner-city fresh market”, they offer your basic farmers market staples including fresh produce, flowers, coffee, vegan foods, pastries, crepes. The fresh produce selection wasn’t anything you couldn’t get from your standard fruit store but was reasonably affordable. The majority of the market hosted a range of ‘artisan’ food retailers, which is not a word in my daily vocabulary as a student. The coffee and pastries were delicious, but for $5 each, not something I need to add to my weekly expenses. The major plus of this market for Auckland students is that it’s just a short walk from the city campus. They also offer two hours of free parking at Britomart Carpark, with a $10 receipt, which will probably get you one glorified, artisan hotdog. I don’t know if I’ll go again, I’ll probably stick to the $3 coffee at Shads for now. – Jess
Coffee and Pastries: 10/10
Halfway between the stretch of highway connecting Kumeu and Albany, the Coatesville markets are the largest farmers markets I’ve been to in Auckland, despite being so out of the way. Hosting over a hundred vendors, the food trucks, handmade crafts and live music tempts large crowds from the inner city. It’s unlikely as a student you’ll be dishing out any money, as the varnished woodworking pieces, pottery and greenstone jewellery is more to attract high-end buyers—the people in Coatesville are very rich. The range of food trucks is guaranteed to please, with what Jess describes as ‘artisan’ foods, as well as ethnic cuisines, and market favourites. My mantra is: you know a market’s gonna be good if Double Dutch Fries are there. Except when they’re parked on Alfred St. Final word of advice though – do be prepared to bring a gold coin, as the scouts manage the closest carpark as a fundraising activity. Wilson Parking would be proud. – Brian
Random cute crafts that you don’t need: 8/10
Catalina Bay (Hobsonville)
When you work right next to a farmers market, you’re basically living the Taylor Swift small country town fantasy. The Catalina Bay Farmers Markets are the best farmers market to have a camera crew following you wearing a silk scarf and linen shirt. They run every Saturday and Sunday featuring a set rotation of independent vendors ranging from the honey man (who literally pops in next door for a beer after) to some of the best customisable vegan falafel breakfasts. If you’re familiar with Sweet As Crepes then you’re in for a familiar sight but there’s also a artisan cheese stall, specialist butcher stall and two handcrafted bakery sections that all look like they’re from a studio ghibli movie. Note of warning: there’s some absolutely bonkers construction going on so save yourself the impossible parking mission and catch the ferry in. – Sophie
4kg of a cheese you don’t know how to pronounce: 9/10
And just in case anyone wanted to stalk me, I also live next to a farmers market. My best childhood memories would be waking up early on a Sunday morning and helping my dad pick out apples from the goliath mountain that spilled out the back of a transurban truck. The Takapuna Sunday markets are about as authentic as they get with stall vendors selling produce right out of the backs of their trucks. Fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and vintage clothing and home knick knacks all feature at this iconic market. My personal highlight of the market goes to the old Chinese couple who call me over to buy Chinese vegetables and share their recipes with me everytime they see me, despite my broken protests. Whilst this market began with strictly cash transactions, some vendors have their own eftpos machines – best to bring some loose change just in case though. It doesn’t get more real than that. – Sophie
Accessibility: 6/10 (park on a residential street)
Early morning wake up and sunrise view: 10/10
So there you go: next time you’re dusty on a Sunday morning, head along to one of these absolute gems. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, and the team is sure there’s better Farmers Markets out and about. So get out there, explore our beautiful city and let your mouth explore what our wonderful local producers can do. And let us know your recommendations, too!