Proudly local: Produce aplenty

From a century-old fortnightly produce and poultry sale to a sparkling new community wholefood co-op, Dungog locals are passionate about affordable, locally grown food.

It’s Thursday morning and a group of locals are gathering on a vacant block in downtown Dungog. From a set of long-ago built hardwood timber cages a few bantam hens, a proud rooster and a pair of bright-eyed ducks peer out at the crowd. A large timber trestle is laden with a wide variety of produce from local backyards, with hearty pumpkins and potkins and squash varieties not seen in supermarkets for many years.

It’s the fortnightly Produce and Poultry Auction, a local institution run by stock and station agency Dillons and Sons and it’s much more than just a regular vegetable sale. Patrons bid fervently for a weetbix box full of crunchy sugar snap peas, or some long white leeks tied neatly with baling twine for a few dollars each. The chooks often fetch a few bucks, all meticulously noted in the record book.

Director of Dillons and Sons, Kel Sullivan said it’s an important event in the town and one they are happy to support.
“It’s a tradition we keep alive, a day out for a lot of elderly people in our community. It was known as the Union Sale. It’s held fortnightly on pension day.

“Far aside from the fact that it allows people to purchase affordable and fresh items, it’s a great excuse to gather and meet up with friends from across the shire. It’s certainly not a money-making exercise. It’s about congregating and providing a community service.

“People can bring whatever they want. We start with the poultry and then move through to the produce. It can include everything from home bottled pickles and jams to fresh gramma pies, and dozens of eggs, or potted plants. You name it, we get the lot! Rain, hail or shine, we are here every second Thursday.”
The auction has been running for more than 100 years, a farmer’s market established well before they would become a global trend and pop up in city centres all over Australia. Here, all the action happens fairly quickly, allowing plenty of time for a catch up.

“We have people coming to this sale just for the social side of it. They might not buy or sell anything.
“It’s very rare I don’t know the name of the person I am knocking it down to. But new faces are always welcome. We are starting to see new families come to town. They start growing and bringing their wares to sell.”

The local preschool even make it one of their regular excursions, they buy produce and take it back to school to cook and eat.

“We love it when the kids come,” Kel said. “It’s fantastic. Sometimes we may only have three or four people selling and a handful in the crowd. But I wouldn’t want to let them down and cancel the sale. Everyone is welcome, the more produce and buyers the better!

“It’s something we will stick to, it’s important to us to keep this alive!”

Let’s meet at the markets

Now it’s early on Saturday morning and the CWA ladies open the timber gate to the porch alongside their meeting rooms in Dowling Street, Dungog’s wide and welcoming main street.

Read more about Dungog Produce in our Spring Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story and photography by Penny Evans