As farmers' markets across Victoria face an uncertain future following new restrictions introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus - and as opportunistic, heartless thieves target family roadside stalls - lovers of local produce are finding innovative ways to get their supplies.
Invermay writer and journalist Lisa Martin decided the best way to overcome the recent shortage of her favourite pasta sauce was to go to the... source.
"I ran out of this amazing pasta sauce called 'Mama and Son's', which I can usually get at the Brown Hill or Bridge Mall markets," Ms Martin said.
"I looked them up on Facebook after my fridge was sadly empty and got in touch. And they said, 'Sure, come and get some.' So that's what I did; and so I thought I could perhaps centralise the farmers' market on one page and get people to support each other and set up contacts and deliveries."
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Since setting the page up on Tuesday, WE LOVE BALLARAT REGIONAL PRODUCE has gathered over 1200 members, and introduced suppliers and producers such as from sausage makers, mushroom farmers and coffee roasters directly to consumers who want their goods, and are unable to attend farmers' markets in Ballarat following City of Ballarat's withdrawal of permits.
The page's popularity comes as another beloved Australian tradition, the roadside produce stall, takes a beating from thieves who are stealing entire stocks of potatoes, pumpkins and other vegetables.
At least two stalls near Ballarat have had their stocks taken in recent days, with one frustrated farmer leaving a handwritten note threatening to end the sales.
"Due to the "...." (who) took 60 bags of spuds over (the) last 3 days and did not "pay", if this s*it keeps going on I will close down. I am over it," the note reads in part.
The Courier attempted to contact the affected potato supplier.
Ms Martin says local people care about quality produce, like to support 'mum and dad' operations, and the contactless delivery model could overcome the problems with roadside theft.
"They want to get behind the underdog; they understand how much hard work goes into growing and cooking produce, and they want to give back," Ms Martin says.
"I've had nothing but positive feedback in the last 24 hours. Stallholders are organising deliveries; one mushroom farmer at Smythes Creek looks like they can set up a farmgate and save their business, survive the next six months."
"People are being creative now. It's like it was back in the old days; someone would deliver, and you'd leave a bit of money out for them."