Written by Joanne Barrett
Farmers markets provide a venue for artisan food producers, local farmers and growers to sell their foodstuffs direct, and for people to mingle and experience new tastes.
I asked Jon Wild, owner of the Mt Albert Market, how his market came to be and what the inspiration behind it was.
“In a nutshell, enthusiasm for good food and the joy of bringing community together inspired me,” says Jon. “Despite my busy life as a family man and freelance media creative, where I produce and direct television shows, documentaries and corporate content, I’m at the market every Saturday morning when I can. When my work takes me out of town, my wife Amber steps in. She is an amazing support.”
Originally from the Uk, Jon arrived in Christchurch in 2010, just before the earthquake, which he says was quite a shock. He met Amber (from Christchurch) through mutual friends in a pub in London while watching an All Blacks game. After living together in London for a few years he decided to follow her to New Zealand.
“When I arrived here I was astounded by the prices and quality of supermarket food.” he says. “I had often thought I would like to create a market with a similar environment to the French farmers markets I visited on holiday as a boy. I loved them. The atmosphere was vibrant, locals chatted together and enjoyed a good catch up. No matter what town we were in, the local producers got together once a week to sell the most amazing, fresh food. It was always my favourite moment of the holidays.”
“We knew from living in Europe, that food markets have a unique way of bringing community together, so our idea was to start a local market in Mt Albert.”
Jon and his family eventually moved to Auckland. Fed up with the weekly trip across town to buy their produce, they knew it was time to create that local market they had dreamed of. It was while stuck in a stream of traffic on New North Road, they spotted a vacant building.
“We figured it would be the perfect site. The building was in the ideal location to hold a farmer’s market, on the main road, and with a canopy large enough to provide good shelter from the often, unpredictable Auckland weather.”
Rain or shine, the Mt Albert Market opens Saturdays 9am-12.30pm with eight or more regular stalls.
Five years on and Jon says, they try to bring in producers they know will afford customers the chance to sample and buy the best quality food, food that hasn't had preservatives injected into it to increase the shelf life.
I asked Jon if the produce was organic. He says, “No, only the bakery provides a true organic product, however the vegetables are spray free and the meat is very well reared by the best producers in the country.”
Among the regular stalls are: George's Garden –George's son Ivan works the farm and runs the stall where they sell spray free vegetables. Neat Meat - Tucker is the big Welsh personality behind this incredibly popular vendor. People come from all over to buy their export quality meat. Their selections, are seriously good value.
Bread and Butter Bakery - Their traditional European breads are made from certified organic ingredients. Their pastries are made to traditional recipes. Over the Moon Dairy – The range of cheeses are incredible. Roland runs the stall, he is knowledgeable and has specials you don't find in the shops.
Ana Kitchen – This Middle Eastern deli sells some of the best hummus, olives, tabbouleh, flat breads, dolmade and falafel around. Babicka’s Table – Their hand-made sausages from Waiheke are lovingly made with the best fresh ingredients available.
Natures Corner – Here you can get free range eggs that come from happy hens. No Grainer – This is a plant-based delicatessen with spray-free vegetables. The Little Flower Shop – This local Mt Albert florist has recently joined the Market and adds an element of beauty with their fresh bouquets.
STREETFOOD STATION Food Truck Friday 5pm-9pm. Every week is different with an eclectic range of street food across many cultures.
If you love street food and a casual dinner experience with friends or family, the STREETFOOD STATION Food Truck Friday is a must. Each week there are new trucks selling their fare alongside the very popular regulars who include:
Taco Loco – This is a permanent on-site venue that serves amazing, Mexican street food - their tacos are so tasty you’ll want to come back for more. Napoli Central – Some of best authentic Napoli pizza in town. Luca is a huge personality, he creates a spirited atmosphere with his exuberant Italian style.
Organic wine and craft beer tent - Run by Justin and Cynthia from Te Rata Wines, they make their own organic wines, and, a not too sweet, but refreshingly moreish cider. Little French Pastry is a crowd favourite. Their range of French desserts include the much-loved, mille-feuille and crème brûlée. Benjamin and Matthieu use fresh seasonal ingredients; they bring something new every time.
So, what does Jon Wild do when he’s not travelling the width and breath of Aotearoa, New Zealand for work, managing the market, and being dad to sons Billie, Otis and Victor?
“Naturally, food features, says Jon. “I love to cook. In the summer charcoal BBQ is my thing. I love nothing better than a Fiorentina (thick cut) T-Bone grilled on an open flame with a fresh salsa Verde and salad. The best ingredients - Italian style.
“In the winter I revert to my English roots and cook curries from scratch. My parents brought me up on them in the UK and it is my go-to for a true winter warmer. Nothing beats a slow-cooked, melt in the mouth lamb saag with vibrantly green, fresh-from-the-market, spinach sauce.
“Mt Albert is so central, I love the sense of space and greenery here. It's great for raising a family and Auckland has an amazing buzz, and international vibe.To spend time at the STREETFOOD STATION on a Friday evening or the Mt Albert Market on a Saturday morning and engage with locals over a plate of good food, a refreshing craft beer or a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to end the week and start the weekend. Mt Albert Market is located at 847 Mt Albert Road. Visit them on Facebook here.