SEEMINGLY overnight Monique and Tanya Lunn went from mushroom farmers to running a booming farmgate business. Monique Lunn gets goosebumps when she stops and thinks what they have achieved, largely driven by the Ballarat community's response.
The longer the pandemic pans out, the more the Ballarat Mushroom Farm owner has moved from pure survival instinct into seriously considering opportunities for the future.
Across town, in Navigators, Spring Creek Organics have pulled out from what farmers' markets were left in action across the state to focus efforts into developing its farmgate shop. This was a move Dave Tatman had been considering for a while and pivoting in the pandemic hastened plans.
Spring Creek Organics, like Ballarat Mushroom Farm, has been teaming up with fellow farmers' market producers and while the future remains uncertain, Mr Tatman said his farm would continue to adjust to community needs.
Ballarat Mushroom Farm, in Smythes Creek, just brought in 180 tonnes of gravel for a car park to make access easier.
Farmgate stalls across the region were being inundated with customers seeking fresh produce and a refuge from supermarkets early in the pandemic.
Two months in, Ms Lunn said people were hungry to learn more and her farm was "rolling with it", the building momentum.
Me Lunn felt the more people were exposed to fresh produce, the more culture might change for good.
We initially thought to do this to survive. The longer it's gone on, the more everyone hopes we keep doing this.Monique Lunn, Ballarat Mushroom Farm
"We initially thought to do this to survive. The longer it's gone on, the more everyone hopes we keep doing this," Ms Lunn said.
"People get busy and caught up in their lives. But the longer this goes on, what is normal for people changes.
"...Because the Ballarat community has been so phenomenal, how can we just turn around and shut it down when this is over."
The mushroom farm's store initially took in produce for friends further afield who would normally sell at farmers' markets or direct to restaurants. Ms Lunn said Golden Plains Shire had been instrumental in sending their way other producers who needed a hand.
There is a seafood guy on Fridays and Saturdays, gourmet offerings, freshly pressed juice from Harcourt, Basilio Sourdough and a honey maker whose side hustle is fast becoming a second full-time job to keep up supply. They have even sourced olive oil from a family business north of Kyneton after customer inquiries.
Ms Lunn said the farmgate had become like a farmers' market, five days a week.
It's been a massive learning curve. I've gone from a mushroom farmer to stock orders.Monique Lunn, Ballarat Mushroom Farm
"It's been a massive learning curve. I've gone from a mushroom farmer to stock orders but most people who are selling through the farmgate are selling large amounts of stuff," Ms Lunn said.
"We've been blown away by the people who have contacted us to sell their produce and we don't want to turn anyone away. We even have a young artist whose avenue to sell at farmers' markets has shut.
"People like to know about the farmers, what they do and what their story is, so I like to learn a lot about who we're stocking. People love the story behind the product."
Early in shutdowns, Spring Creek Organics found people were travelling from Geelong, Bendigo, Ararat and Melbourne who knew their product from farmers markets. Now there were also more older residents from across the region, concerned about health and keen to avoid supermarket crowds.
The farm predominantly sells its own produce and has added a partnership with Dunnstown-based Inglenook Dairy and apples from Harcourt on some Saturdays.
Mr Tatman said the farm had been forced to move quick from its honesty system to a cashier with contactless payments.
Whether Spring Creek Organics will return to farmers' markets, Mr Tatman was unsure. Things could still change, he said, and it was important to keep adapting.
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