Some 17 years ago Rose Brettell and Susan Garner initiated the Wild Oats Farmers Market.
Their aim was to give the local farming community an appropriate physical space to sell their own produce direct to the public and to take away from recipients the normally impersonal process of purchasing many groceries and fresh foods far from where they originate. To connect "townies" with their "country counterparts" so they can put a face and a name to the people who produce the food they eat.
Every Saturday, just off the N2 highway, (at the Engen garage turnoff on the George side of Sedgefield) in a secluded area close to the Swartvlei lagoon, stalls of all kinds are set out in the sheltering cover of Australian Myrtle trees.
Many stall owners rise in the early hours of Saturday morning to pick, pack, and/or bake their wares and produce to get them to market as fresh as is humanly possible. Some travel considerable distances to be part of this widely acclaimed market and have to face the return journey once the market closes.
The real value of buying local means consumers get the freshest produce - in this case picked the day before and even the same morning as it is placed on the stalls and the farmers get full value for their efforts without having to forfeit so much to middlemen and transport costs. Faces and personalities are connected to quality home-made products of all kinds that are presented with authenticity and pride.
The choice of food is staggering, fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meat of all kinds, raw, smoked, dried, pickled and cooked. English and Continental breakfasts, samoosas, sushi, and the best German bratworst rolls I've ever tasted - the secret recipe of the stall owner - you'll find them nowhere else!
Varieties of sweet and savoury pies, cakes small and large, tasty towers and simple cupcakes, biscuits, jams and preserves, cheeses, breads made with stone ground flour, Italian sandwiches, vegetarian pizzas, organic olives, nuts, smoothies and fruit juices are available. I have found the best salad dressing there and now it's the only one I ever use! Chocolate, fudge and other sweet treats are on offer and of course, the popular morning staple, delicious coffee!
Many cultures are represented. There are delicious German cakes and cured meats, Italian breads and pastas, South African biltong, vetkoek and dried fruit, Greek desserts, Indian samoosas and chilli bites, Dutch cheeses –this list is by no means exhaustive.
No wonder Wild Oats Farmers Market is a favourite meeting place for breakfast for the locals and tourists all along the Garden Route! Rustic dining tables and chairs in the form of upended chopped logs and larger ones used as tables enable visitors to sit down and eat under shady trees.
Holidaymakers - you can buy ready cooked delicious meals here and not have to cook for a week! Nothing is mass produced so get here early to avoid disappointment! Socialised dogs on leads are welcome too.
Then there are home-made herbal soaps, aloe based creams and lotions, cut flowers, fresh herbs, indigenous plants, proteas and fynbos as cut flowers and garden plants.
The Market opens from 7:30am to 12 noon in summer
and 8am to 12 noon in winter.
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Unless they have a pre-booked gig, the popular Eden Minstrels are at the entrance of the Wild Oats Market every Saturday to entertain the folks as they arrive. Unceasingly they draw crowds that stop to enjoy their style of music.
To book the Eden Minstrels for an event contact Norman Mark on 078 261 2395.
Wild Oats Farmers Market has proved to be a successful formula. In a beautiful rural
setting it provides a shopping experience that is an enjoyable and
relaxing outing for the whole family.
Find out more about Wild Oats
The great news is, there are 2 other wildly successful outdoor markets in walking distance that can be visited and enjoyed well into Saturday afternoon. It is a great place for the whole family or for friends and family to meet, be they locals or visitors to enjoy a fun time together in the great Garden Route outdoors.
There are plenty of food options to feed the hungry ones and lots of arts and crafts and other interesting shopping options to investigate.