A sense of community connection and a desire to support local producers has seen shoppers ditch the supermarket for the farmers’ market, according to new research by Griffith University nutrition students.

Nutrition and Dietetics students Courtney Robinson, Tatjana Warners and Amy Moores with their supervisor Narelle Greenlees at Summit Organics in Tumbulgun.

Students from the University’s Nutrition and Dietetics program examined why people visited their local market, using the Murwillumbah Farmers’ Market as a case study.

Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics student Courtney Robinson said students discovered the market played a vital role in creating a sense of community connection.

“It really holds a place in people’s hearts,” she said.

“One of the shoppers called it their ‘happy place’.

“Everyone commented on the sense of community connection that it brings them and keeps them coming to the market every week.”

The students’ research also found that farmers’ markets had gone from strength to strength during the pandemic.

“We did find anecdotal evidence from stallholders that sales and numbers of shoppers had increased throughout COVID,” Courtney said.

A stallholder at the Murwillumbah Farmer’s Market

“I think people feel more confident about the food supply chain when they buy from local producers and shoppers are keen to support local businesses.”

Griffith University clinical educator Narelle Greenlees said the research project had helped identify a range of benefits provided by the humble farmers’ market.

“The students interviewed a range of people for this project – from teenagers to elderly residents, newcomers and long-term locals, some coming for breakfast, some doing their regular weekly shop,” she said.

“We found that people visited the market for a variety of health, social, environmental and economic reasons.

“It is a great way to promote healthy eating, and the fact that farmers’ markets support local producers, cut down on our carbon footprint and help boost the local economy makes it a win-win.”

Ms Greenlees said the study gave students a broader perspective on nutrition and dietetics.

“It’s not just about diet, it’s looking at health holistically – this project has given our students an awareness of environmental sustainability to the mental health benefits of shopping local.”

The research study was a collaboration by Griffith University, Murwillumbah Farmers’ Market, Destination Tweed and NSW Health.