February 24, 2021
Wine & Dine

Roadside stalls flourish in the Adelaide Hills

A home-grown movement is afoot in the Adelaide Hills, where interest in roadside and farmgate stalls has surged in the wake of the pandemic and honesty systems, veggies, flowers, cakes and preserves are the order of the day.

Lynda Shepherd and parents David and Jenny Cornish run Springwood Farm Berries stall at Summertown. Photo: Ben Kelly.

The concept of a roadside produce stall is as old as the hills yet, over the past year, there has been a surge of interest in this traditional practice.

This is particularly evident in the Adelaide Hills, where new stalls have been popping up on roadsides across the region, with an increase of people buying direct from both established farmers and home growers.

In April last year, Brendan Kilpatrick and his partner Stephanie George set up a Facebook group called Adelaide Hills Roadside Stalls. Having only just moved to the region, and in the midst of COVID restrictions, Brendan and Stephanie found new stalls popping up on the roadsides and made a habit of visiting them with their children.

“At first we thought we should start a catalogue of these stalls with a view to creating a map for the kids. We started a group online and it’s now got 4500 followers and people who really engage with the posts. We’ve got to know a lot of the stall owners and some of the challenges they face,” says Brendan.

“It’s been a fun project that started by accident and it’s just blown up. There have been lots of new stalls popping up and giving it a go. We wanted to celebrate the freedom of finding fresh produce and getting bags of pony poo that we’d take home to put on the garden.

“We encourage people to engage with these stalls and make it an adventure by using it as a bit of a ‘yellow brick road’ for having a day out in the Adelaide Hills. It’s a cool way to get out and explore that part of the world.”

Stallholders in the Facebook group regularly post photos of their offerings, including home-grown flowers and seedlings, chutneys, jams, cakes, cookies and fresh fruit and vegetables.

“With everything that was going on in the world at that time, the Hills felt like the safest place to be and this has just made us appreciate it even more.”

Uraidla farmer Tara Cobbledick with a romanesco at her family’s farmgate stall. Photo: Ben Kelly.

Cobbledick Produce: Uraidla

Tara and Richard Cobbledick run one of the most well-known farmgate produce stalls in the Adelaide Hills, where the Cobbledick family has been farming for 170 years.

Tara says that in six years of running the Cobbledick Produce farmgate stall, it has never been busier than during the past 12 months.

“During the initial COVID lockdown last year we saw a huge increase in customers,” Tara says. “People didn’t want to go to the supermarket, so that period of lockdown was quite busy. We also introduced our weekly boxes that people can pre-order, or we put together a value box, and people just drive up and we put it in their boot.”

The stall is stocked with all of the farm’s lines including different varieties of cauliflowers, beetroot, leeks, lettuce and broccoli. Such has been the demand that the Cobbledicks source produce from other local growers to provide a wider range of goods.

Although sometimes the money doesn’t always balance at the end of the day, Tara says the vast majority of people are honest in paying the correct amount. “There’s always that slight calculation that doesn’t add up at the end of the day, and there’s always going to be that percentage. Most people are honest and it’s a risk we choose to take. We’ll continue to put our produce out here,” Tara says.

“I hear feedback from other stalls, and usually customers are pretty honest there too.”

Tara is also a qualified chef and often posts recipes and updates about the stall to the Cobbledick Produce social media pages, encouraging customers to try different methods of preparing vegetables.

“We often grow specialty lines that we like to put out at the stall, just to encourage people to learn about them. At the moment we’re harvesting and selling romanescos, which are a cauli-cross-broccoli that chefs like to use.”

Lynda Shepherd and parents David and Jenny Cornish run Springwood Farm Berries stall at Summertown. Photo: Ben Kelly.

Springwood Farm: Summertown

Springwood Farm is a small one-acre berry patch operated by the Cornish family in the cool hills of Summertown. The farm boasts a well-presented farmgate stall hand-built by David Cornish, who is a fifth-generation Summertown resident.

The stall has been upgraded multiple times over the years and today has a fridge and freezer stocked with seasonal fresh berries, jams, sauces, chutney and sorbet made from family recipes. The Cornish family is looking to increase parking space to cater for peak times.

Jenny and David began growing raspberries 12 years ago and would drive them to suburban fruit and veg shops. However, they soon realised that a farmgate stall would suit them better.

“David built a tiny stall at the entrance to our property; we put out a hand-written sign and just hoped people would come up our bumpy road,” Jenny says. “He’s had to make the stall bigger a few times now, and more recently added a fridge and a freezer for the ice cream. In the patch, he is always adding a new row of one berry or another to help fill the demand, but we are still a very small farm, and we like it that way.”

The family says visitor numbers peaked in 2020 and remain strong, while more stalls have popped up around the Hills.

“During the Coronavirus lockdown, people were able to hop in their car, go for a drive and shop safely at roadside stalls. Many new stalls popped up all over the Hills in direct response to the number of visitors and this trend hasn’t diminished at all. Once people started to use stalls for their everyday shopping they enjoyed the freshness and flavours of the fruit and veg and the huge variety of fabulous stalls along our roads.

“We love having people come to our farmgate, sit in a quiet spot, enjoy their ice cream and take in the views of the surrounding hillside. We encourage them to stay as long as they like – some have been known to bring their own picnic. Some of our visitors tell us that they had never been to our district before and they’re enjoying exploring the backroads of the Hills.”

Social media has helped the family to spread the word about their farmgate. Offering cash and EFTPOS options for payment, Jenny says the majority of customers are honest, but stall owners who are new to the game often run into issues such as theft and spoilage caused by weather conditions.

“I think people want to be trusted and they thoroughly enjoy doing things the old way. Sadly, not everyone has had the same experience as us, though.”

Adelaide Hills resident Michelle Ridgwell with her stall ‘Little Harvest on Ackland’ at Coromandel Valley.

The Little Harvest: Coromandel Valley

Just three months ago, Michelle Ridgwell set up her roadside stall called Little Harvest on Ackland, selling products made from home-grown chilies, zucchinis, tomatoes and capsicums, as well as blackberries picked from her property.

With some help from her mother and mother-in-law, Michelle creates sweet chili jams, zucchini pickles, blackberry jam and potted succulents. Her newest creation is a spicy jalapeno and pineapple chutney.

“I really enjoy making all the preserves myself and it’s such a wonderful feeling when people enjoy the things that I’ve made,” Michelle says.

“I’ve been a professional graphic designer for about 14 years so I’m enjoying the balance of working part-time as a designer and creating preserves and plants on the side. I’m hoping to one day see my jars in a cafe or sell them at a local market.”

Michelle says Christmas was a busy time for the stall, although passers-by don’t tend to stop on hot days.

“In starting up my roadside stall I’ve been very lucky and have noticed very little or no theft, although I know a few other stallholders have not been so lucky.”

The Red Shed on Matthews is a roadside produce stall at Nairne.

The Red Shed on Matthews: Nairne

Since setting up her bright-red roadside stall one month ago, Karyn Steer has found it to be a rewarding hobby and point of interaction with her local community.

The Red Shed on Matthews stocks products from Karyn’s home-based hobby business Well Preserved, including seven types of chutney: Karyn’s favourite thing to make. She also stocks honey from her sister’s hives, home-made cakes and biscuits, and excess garden produce.

“I live on 1100 square metres and most of my backyard is a vegetable garden, chicken run and fruit trees with a propagating area,” Karyn says.

“The stall is fun and it keeps me busy. I love making preserves, baking and gardening, so I get to combine these hobbies. If it meets a need and people come and buy my products, then it’s a win-win!”

Karyn says theft can be heartbreaking, given the small profit margins of running a stall and the time and effort that goes into making the goods.

“It helps that I have visible security cameras and signs stating that. I’ve had people over-pay, and I’ve had people under-pay, and it mostly balances out. I’ve heard stories of people stealing everything from a stall, and I would find that very disheartening and disappointing – but I would also not hesitate to publish pictures of those responsible online,” Karyn says.

“Roadside stalls are very trendy right now, perhaps because people like supporting the little guy. Being unable to travel elsewhere, going for a drive to visit a couple of roadside stalls is something a bit different. I know I’ve gone out of my way to visit a few stalls and I like the idea of supporting someone who is making a few dollars from their hobby or covering the costs of their plant purchases by selling a few flowers.

“The Facebook group has made it easy to see what’s around, and what’s in stock in the local area. It’s a really nice, thoughtful way to buy a gift for someone or a treat for yourself.

“I’d like to thank my regulars who leave funny comments on my social media posts and for their honesty, and stopping for a chat when they see me out in the garden. It’s nice to know that people appreciate the effort you put in.”

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