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Karen Lott

karen-lott
Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

What inspired you to start the Nethercote Produce Markets and then go on to open Sprout Eden?

My friend Barbara and I were disappointed with the amount of fruit and vegetables available for sale locally and knew that, with the great range of microclimates and soils in Nethercote and surrounding localities, there must be a lot being grown. We hoped that starting the market would be a great opportunity to encourage local growers to get involved and hopefully grow more.

We were frequently asked to hold the markets more regularly. One Sunday afternoon, while parked in the main street of Eden, I spotted an empty shop and the idea for Sprout was born.

My vision was to create a mini version of the seasonal markets, providing customers with daily access to locally grown produce, and a regular outlet for local growers to sell their excess. I also wanted to combine that with a friendly café, for people to meet and relax in while enjoying great food using local ingredients.

Why is it important to source your products locally?

Local sourcing ensures great quality fresh produce, which has often been grown as organically as possible without actually being certified, and with a very low carbon footprint, especially food miles; some growers walk the produce to us from home! It also helps to support the local economy, keeping money circulating within our community.

How do you go sourcing enough food locally? Does it make it harder to keep up with demand?

Having run the Nethercote Produce Markets for four years before opening the shop, we had already established great communication with many producers who were keen to supply Sprout. Over 100 locals have sold produce to the shop since it opened, with around thirty active at any one time. Apart from fresh produce, our little shop retails a good selection of artisan breads, dairy products, meat, smoked fish, condiments, tea and coffee, plus cakes and meals that can be eaten in or taken away.

How has the market and Sprout helped to connect community?

The market provides a seasonal social event for locals to reconnect for a few hours in a relaxed atmosphere, and Sprout is a regular meeting hub for many locals.

I’ve had enormous support from those around me, including my wonderful family, staff and the community of Eden, and I love what we have created together. The town of Eden was and still is struggling, but there is a lot of hope for the future; I believe opening Sprout Eden has contributed a little to growing that hope.

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