On the 5th of August, the Earth Market Maitland will celebrate its 4th birthday. The Earth Market is part of the Slow Food Movement which promotes locally grown fresh food produce, encouraging the notion that we should all look for our food in our ‘own backyard’. The is lucky to have Amorelle Dempster at its helm. Amorelle was not only instrumental in initiating the Earth Market Maitland, but she is also the leader of the Slow Food Movement in the Hunter Valley and the Australian Councillor for Slow Food International.

In early 2019, I phoned Amorelle to discuss whether my son, Charlie, could start selling our produce grown at Maitland Urban Farm at the Earth Market Maitland. I explained that Charlie was on the autism spectrum and that while some things were incredibly challenging for Charlie such as handwriting, rules of games, change of routine and some gross motor skills, he had immense strengths in other areas. He loves chatting to new people and being part of his local community, he never forgets a name and he remembers details about people that make them feel as though they have a place in his heart and mind. Amorelle listened intently and agreed to let us be a part of the Earth Market in Maitland.

The markets have given Charlie something that we, as a family, value dearly; belonging. He is a welcomed member of the farmers’ market; he contributes to making the markets fun and engaging for the customers. In the 2 years that we have been selling vegetables at the farm, Charlie has learnt a myriad of new skills including exchanging money, customer service skills, reciprocal communication, and the names of the vegetables. Over the years, Charlie has increased the length of time that he is happy to man his stall for and he has increased his understanding of how to approach and communicate with customers. While he is willing to chat to lots of people, he does have his favourite customers and fellow farmers who sell their produce at the market. Len and Pauline who sell honey, Tom who sells garlic and Liz who sells honey, eggs and fresh vegetables are just a few of Charlie’s favourites.

We have been lucky enough to experience, first-hand, the positive impact that Amorelle can have on those around her. Her willingness to include our family and particularly Charlie will never be forgotten.

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