Beyond Schnitzel

14 Jan 2011

The farmers’ market in the small town of Parndorf in eastern Austria this week becomes the latest member of the Earth Markets group, Slow Food’s international network of good, clean and fair farmers’ markets. Parndorf represents central Europe’s first addition to the network, and joins markets in Lebanon, Israel, Latvia, Romania and Italy that offer a chance for small producers to connect directly with their customers and provide local specialties in line with Slow Food’s philosophy.

A village of just over 3000 inhabitants, Parndorf lies less than 50 km from Vienna in the Burgenland, Austria’s most eastern and flattest province, which is well suited to winegrowing. Bordering Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia, it has an interesting mix of cultures and languages, including a Croatian linguistic minority.

On the first Saturday of the month, fifteen producers, all coming from within a distance of 40 km attend the market, sell bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, preserves, juices, spirits, cured meats, honey and other bee products (candles, soaps, propolis), body products, salt, milk and yoghurt, freshwater fish, goat cheese, meat and wine.

Producers offer what is considered to be some of the most interesting products from the area, such as Waldherr, the baker who uses sourdough starter and self-ground wholemeal flour sourced from local grain, or the Michelits family that supplies Demeter biodynamic certified meat from their herd of 500 free-range cattle, exclusively fed from their own feed. A stall selling street food is always present, where local chefs take turns cooking for eager market-goers, and another where wine producers offer their products for sale and tasting. The market takes places in the barn of a private rural house and is managed with the help of the 80-member-strong Burgenland Convivium.

Since its opening in August 2010, the market has become an important appointment on the calendar for Parndorf locals and has attracted the attention of local media as a place that, more so than simply a commercial outlet, offers an opportunity for exchange of experiences and the diffusion of local food and gastronomic culture.

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