SWAMPED fresh produce suppliers want the community to know their fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat are not going to disappear tomorrow.
Farm-gate shops, butchers and greengrocers across Ballarat are experiencing what they say is unprecedented demand for produce as panicked shoppers look to divert from major supermarkets for supplies amid coronavirus lockdowns. Some are reporting customers travelling from Melbourne's outer west for fresh food.
But, suppliers say the very essence of their work - fresh produce - means they have ongoing supplies and there was no need for people to stockpile.
This comes as the Victorian Government has deemed accredited farmers' markets as an essential trade and food source, despite some council-led markets across the state opting to suspend trade. Talbot was one key example in the region last weekend.
People should realise how lucky we have it in Australia with our farmers...We need to regroup and appreciate what we've got.Trevor Wilson, Wilson's Fruit and Vegetables
Spring Creek Organics, in Navigators, and Yendon Gourmet Tomatoes both predominately sell at markets but each has been experiencing increased demand for product at their farms, mostly from regulars prepared the travel.
Spring Creek's David Chapman said unreliability in supermarket access to all food was customers' key concern.
"Demand has really increased dramatically. We've got plenty here and will continue to have at the rate we're doing now. Certainly we've got other crops coming along," Mr Chapman said.
"This might be a turnaround when people realise buying local, fresh and reliable can be like, it really does taste good, and we can continue to do that in a crisis."
John Harbour said there had been an overreaction in the market. His butchery has been clearing out of stock but he urged people to remember fresh produce was something he was stocking daily.
Wilson's Fruit and Vegetables' Trevor Wilson said this could be a wake-up call for how people shop.
"We've been getting a lot of extra business: is it because people are wanting fresh food or because the supermarkets are running out and they are turning to fresh produce? I'm not sure," Mr Wilson said.
"I hope if something positive comes out of this, people should realise how lucky we have it in Australia with our farmers. If we lost them and had to be importing like other countries it would be diabolical. We need to regroup and appreciate what we've got."
The Farm Gate Shop's Simone Dunne said unprecedented demand was a little unsettling, in a sense, but her Elaine store sourced a steady flow of local produce from farms in the region that was not going away any time soon. This included meat and fresh eggs daily.
"These are not massive farms but what we do have is a steady supply. There is no need to stockpile," Ms Dunne said. "We stock from places like Yendon tomatoes and Spring Creek where they sell from the farm. These are just other avenues for produce but it's important to know it's all still growing."
Meanwhile, researchers are reiterating that improved nutrition can help support immune function needed if we do catch COVID-19, coronavirus.
University of Newcastles' nutrition and dietetics professor Clare Collins said micronutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc.
Professor Collins, writing for The Conversation, said even with a shortage of food in supermarkets, a focus on eating a variety of foods within each of the basic food groups can help boost your intake of vitamins and minerals.
Beyond diet, Professor Collins said other measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible in the face of coronavirus were: stop smoking to improve your lung's ability to fight infection; perform moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking; get enough sleep; practise social distancing and wash your hands with soap regularly.
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we aim to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists you can subscribe here.