As far as food markets go, the Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield on the Garden Route probably comes up tops. Residents of Sedgefield and visitors to the town head out in their droves on a Saturday morning to the edge of town right next to the Swartvlei lake-lagoon, where the market has a permanent home under the trees.
The market’s full name is the Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market and it has won numerous awards during its ten year life span. Whilst I’d heard only good things about the farmers’ market, I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit it, but our road trip up to Hogsback had been conveniently carved into a number of stopovers that included Sedgefield, and the market was one of the first to make its way onto the itinerary …
What you don’t grasp when viewing it from a moving vehicle is that on the other side of the rather slender and visible residential area that lies at the foot of a sand dune, is the Sedgefield Lagoon that winds like the back of a dragon from the Swartvlei Dam – the largest inland salt water lake in the country – to the sea.
On its northern and eastern banks lies the buzzing but small town of Sedgefield, whilst its south western bank is graced by protected fynbos clad sand dunes.
The town attracts artists, hippies, those who have opted out of the rat race and a handful of millionaires. There is the Tortoise Meander that visits some of these local artists, including a woodturner, sculptor, ceramic artist and others, and the outdoor lifestyle is incredible, particularly because of the lakes, lagoon and no fewer than five beaches that attract beach junkies by the dozen.
Yet Sedgefield has thus far managed to elude the level of development that has transformed Knysna over the past fifteen years or so.
Sedgefield, despite all of its surrounding water, was in the midst of a drought and water was scarce when we were there.
This in no way detracted from the tranquility and restful atmosphere of the place, and certainly didn’t stop the crowds from heading out for their weekly supply of organic vegetables, fruit, jam, eggs, free-range meat and poultry, local cheese, artisan breads, plants and a hearty breakfast thrown in for good measure, at the market.
There is little that the Wild Oats market doesn’t have by way of local food, and there are even a few hand-selected craft suppliers ,but the main focus is on fresh, local food and bottled goods, and people queue for the fresh-off-the-coals breakfasts, coffees, pancakes, vetkoek and fresh juices that are in ample supply.
The market’s main aim is to ‘encourage the art of free-range ‘locavore’ shopping in the fresh outdoors’, and it more than achieves this.
Wild Oats is carefully and thoughtfully laid out. It begins under a canopy of trees, just beyond a huge parking lot that divides the local farmers’ market from the other craft markets that dominate these grounds on a Saturday (you can make a day of it here there is so much to do).
After making one’s way past the initial stalls, it becomes obvious that the main reason for coming here is to meet friends, relax and nosh on breakfast. And we obliged. Stools and tables, ingenuously made from the stumps of trees, lie interspersed throughout the market wherever there is shade, whilst the stores lie on the periphery, containing the market in a rough rectangle, set beneath shadecloth and easily accessible.
The market is extensive. This might be a little town on the Garden Route, but its farmers’ market is in a league of its own.
Not even the food markets in Cape Town are as good, despite there being a number of excellent ones. Perhaps it is because this market lacks all pretention. It’s utterly authentic and is brimming over with choice. I wasn’t surprised to learn that people come from Knysna, George and the Wilderness to stock up on a regular basis.
I wasn’t in the mood for a boerewors roll, English breakfast, vetkoek or falafel filled pita, so opted for Sarah of Zest’s fruit, muesli and yoghurt breakfast.
You can return your container to her at the end of the meal for her to recycle. Speaking of which, there was active recycling happening at the market by way of a three-bin system, and Sarah gave you a refund for your glass bottle of hibiscus tea too! If you’re a bread fundi then join the queue at Ill de Pain.
Whilst the breads are pretty pricey, they’re large artisan loaves that are full of goodness, gorgeous to look at, and last for ages as they’re so filling.
The Wild Oats emphasises ‘sustain-able’ habit patterns. The market encourages reducing, reusing and recycling within the market courtyard, hence many of their vendors use reuseable containers, have consciously reduced packaging and empty bottles, and tins are recycled.
The market happens every Saturday, come rain or shine, from 7.30 until 11.30 in summer and from 8 until 11.30 during winter. You’d be wise to head down there as early as you can as the market is popular and locally-produced food obviously a commodity, given the rate at which it is snapped up.
PS: make a point of visiting the fudge master’s stall – this is fudge as I’ve not tasted it before!