AN original stallholder at Albury Wodonga Farmers Market will set up on Saturday for the last time after a near two-decade-long run.
South Albury vegetable grower and beef producer Willowbank Farm, owned by Byron and Vicki Gray, was among the first stallholders when the farmers' market started in Wodonga almost 19 years ago.
Byron said the Easter Saturday market at Gateway Village would be their last hurrah.
"It's time to hang up the boots," he said.
"We've been coming to the market since the 22nd of June, 2002.
"We had our first break from the market in January; other than that I missed three - one for my father's funeral, one for my brother's funeral and one when I got run over by the tractor!"
Byron said they were grateful to their loyal Border customers.
He said discerning buyers understood the value of locally-grown food systems.
"The true market locals are there every weekend, rain, hail or shine," Byron said.
"How people perceive local food is not always right but farmers' market customers know the difference between a local grower and a local wholesaler."
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Byron said he would long remember the stallholders and buyers from the market.
He said he made it his business to learn the names of five new customers every Saturday; a tip that cost him nothing and meant the world to buyers.
"I've had fantastic relationships with customers; you meet them by chance at the market and before you know it they're friends turning up to dinner parties!" he said.
"You end up not just being the grower, you're the chef and their confidante.
"I also enjoyed watching people's kids grow up at the market over the years."
Together with Vicki, Byron said their three children and other family members helped them stay the course, with benefits for the kids.
"Our children got an education from working at the market," Byron said.
"It helped them with their maths, communication skills and helped them deal with problems; it was a very good learning curve for them."
Byron wouldn't rule out a return to the farmers' market in the future as his grandchildren were only young, now aged from 2 to 4.
"I'd love it down the track if the grandkids could do something there," he said.
Byron said he would now focus on the farm.
"I won't have to get up quite so early on a Saturday morning," Byron said.
"But I'll really miss the market coalface, interacting with the customers and the stallholders."
The market runs every Saturday at Gateway Village in Wodonga, 8am to noon.
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