Contrary to reputation of grey nomads in some quarters as being budget-obsessed travellers who will only shop at the big supermarkets in order to save a dollar or two, the truth on the ground – and on the road – is often far different.
As well as making the effort to support smaller stores in rural towns, many caravanners and motorhomers say that one of the great joys of the Big Lap is frequenting farmers’ markets to buy local produce or stopping at roadside stores to pick up fresh food or vegetables.
Grey nomads looking for a more in-depth cultural experience are becoming gastronomic tourists, foraging for food, talking to those who supply it, and gaining a greater insight into local culture.
Southern Cross University academic, David Scott, who has researched the phenomenon, says grey nomads are under less time constraints than most people and can get to more out of the way places, and they are eager to see where the food came from and who produced it.
“They are discovering that museums are things that you can look at and maybe touch, but food you can actually consume,” he said. “Discovering food is a transformative experience … it is at the heart of the identity of a place.”
Indeed, recent Tourism Australia research revealed that 40% of holidaymakers consider food and wine a major factor in their travel plans, edging ahead of the natural environment.
It is a trend which has helped fuel the boom in farmers’ markets across Australia, but food producers are at pains to emphasise that it is still a matter of ‘use us or lose us’,
Pig farmer, Fiona May, started the first genuine farmers’ market in the Queensland town of Toowoomba several years ago, drawing in dozens of small local producers from the fertile Darling Downs and Lockyer Valley farming districts.
“We know that it’s a modern world, we know that it’s convenient to go to a larger supermarket, but if you can, support these producers,” she told the ABC. “Even if it’s going to the butcher because a lot of our producers supply butchers as well … we just need to support these local businesses because we’re not going to be here if you don’t.”
· Do you visit farmers’ markets on your travels? Do you stop at roadside fruit and vege stalls? Email us here to share your experiences.