I am super EXCITED to bring you this post! It is rather special and I feel honoured that Dori Ellington took the time out to chat to me about her fabulous business Makin’ Groceries a pop up organic greengrocer focusing on local and farmer direct produce.
I crossed the river (which I do frequently by the way!) and checked out Marketto..easy to find I just followed the trail of oranges up Toorak Rd and there it was ! I was greeted to the delightful sound of the ‘Blues Berrys’ or as Dori calls them ‘Darcy and the boys’ setting the mood with some tunes…
I loaded up with beautiful local produce. We had an amazing feast of organic veg and Plains Paddock Lamb that night for dinner.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to photograph the lamb that day, it was too delicious and was gobbled up very quickly! Dont worry that is not the end of that story!
Photography by Lee Blaylock
Can you tell us about your background? Has food always been a passion of yours?
I was born & raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana; so needless to say EATING has always been a massive part of my life. My grandmother, Anita Mae, was the quintessential southern cook, who taught me that eating revolves around everything… and should always be accompanied by a drink. Louisianans’ love to eat & drink and are very proud of their cuisine.
However, growing up where EATING is a tradition, oddly no one ever really talked about where the FOOD came from. Somehow, the supply chain was forgotten in a region so intertwined with good cooking and culture. On occasion, some sweet oldie would bring around some homegrown tomatoes, but other than that, fruit & veg came from multinational supermarkets, where the produce had been shipped from all over the world. There were no locally owned fruit & veg shops, bakeries, or butchers.
So how did fruit & veg first spark your interest?
When I was 17, I met someone that had a beautiful lunch made with ingredients entirely from his garden. My teenage mind could barely comprehend. Being an angsty teenager I was annoyed that I had never really thought about where food came from. How did the fresh food get to the supermarkets? Where was it before? Who picked it? Who planted it? What did they get paid for it? Did they have enough water? Had any of their crops failed that year? How did they become a farmer? Where was the farm? Can I grow this? The questions got a bit out of control.
3 years later, in 2004, I came to Australia for a uni exchange. I immediately fell in love with the place, something about it clicked. I studied Outdoor and Environmental Education in Bendigo. I learned heaps about outdoorsy/enviro/earth lovin’ stuff, but more than anything I learnt that I LOVED FOOD- Real food with real people behind it. I started my first veggie patch and a fruit & veg co-op from my house. It became a bit of an obsession & it was so much fun.
When did you come to Melbourne? How did you become a greengrocer?
I moved to Melbourne in 2007 and began working at CERES Environment Park in East Brunswick. I was co-ordinating the Farmers Market Stall, going to all of the Melbourne Farmer’s Markets [Veg Out, Collingwood Children’s Farm, Gas Works, Abbotsford Slow Food] selling the produce from Merri Creek Market Garden, Om Mushrooms, chutneys & sauces from CERES Seven Stars and seedlings from CERES propagation. It was hard for me to sleep on Friday nights because of all the excitement for Saturday morning.
It was when I began managing the CERES Organic Market I realised that I was destined to be a greengrocer! There was just so much talking about food, every step of the way. Daily chats with growers about everything from babies to bok choy to bugs; hearing about what was going on with Queensland bananas from the lovely wholesalers; chatting to staff about different varieties of apples while we setting up tills and trestle tables before the market opened; and talking with customers about what spud was best for roasting & listening to them swap recipes. I loved how FOOD created a community. After almost 4 years of managing CERES Market I decided it was time for someone else to have the experience and I should move on.
What is Marketto?
Marketto is a bi-monthly market in the courtyard of Sweet Caroline hair salon in South Yarra. Each Marketto there is organic fruit & veg available from my stall, Makin’ Groceries alongside a variety of growers & makers; Fresh Oyster Mushrooms & grow your own kits by Fungi Culture, Honey from the Urban Beekeeper, Lamb from Plains Paddock Lamb, Cakes by Cakes by Me, Organic baby food from Peter Piper Picked, Smoothies by Bike n’ Blend, and we are soon to welcome Bundarra Berkshire Pork, Nolan’s Road Olive Oil, Shokuik Wholefoods, and TOM’s organics.
Where did this wonderful idea grow from?
Jamie McFarlane, owner of Sweet Caroline, has been cutting my hair for a while now (and for all you northsiders out there, yes I travelled to the south side to get my haircut… totally worth it!) We immediately hit it off gossiping about people, relationships and FOOD. He always knows where the best new foodie spots are, loves a good juice fast or raw diet, and keen to fight the supermarket duopoly!
In May this year, while I was getting a great new haircut, Jamie said he wanted to start a market in the courtyard of Sweet Caroline, to highlight all the unused urban spaces and highlight sustainable living. We got excited for about 10 minutes, and decided to start in July.
Marketto is the love child of an enthusiastic hairdresser & a greengrocer.
How long has Marketto been going for?
We had our first Marketto in July! The first 2 months it was only the first Saturday of the month, but the people demanded more. We’re now tossing up weekly for 2013….
How is it being Southside? What has been the reaction so far?
Being Southside is awesome! Everyone has been incredibly supportive and really proud to have their own local market; word of mouth has never been so powerful. The first Saturday we opened, a lovely gentlemen went door knocking to let neighbours know there was a market on.
South Yarra is full of high density living with lots of diversity. It’s a mixture of long time locals, uni students, extremely fit people who run the ‘tan every morning, hardcore foodies, and young families.
Photography by Lee Blaylock
The name of your vegetable stall Makin’ Groceries? What’s this story?
Makin’ Groceries is a Louisiana term, meaning ‘going to the grocery store’. I wanted something to reflect my roots. And it kinda describes Makin’ Groceries mission; make fresh fruit and veg more accessible to people, by supporting local farmers and decreasing the links in the food supply chain… making groceries.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to start their own business?
Just go for it, if you love what you do & you never know what maybe around the corner. Oh, and make sure you have good people around you!
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
To keep popping up in areas that do not have fruit & veg shops near them.
Starting Thursday 8th of November, Makin Groceries will be out the front of Berties Butcher on Swan St, Richmond. Swan Street is a super busy shopping strip, again with no fruit & veg shops. I’m really looking forward to collaborating with Berties Butcher. Butchers and greengrocers are two very important trades that have been lost, and I think we can revive them. It would also be great to get out into the suburban sprawl… but Im trying to take one step at a time.