ABSTRACT: Local food has become a significant focus of food studies analysis in recent years with much of this work identifying the potential environmental, social and economic benefits of food localisation. However, a growing body of literature destabilises these assumed benefits with research now questioning the utility of scale in assessing food system outcomes. This paper explores this destabilisation by examining how concepts associated with the ‘local’ have been deployed by the Capital Region Farmers Market (CRFM) in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This leads to two key conclusions: firstly, the practical case study confirms theoretical insights highlighting the instability of the local, identifying how it is animated in multiple and sometimes contradictory ways often in response to conventional market forces; and secondly, we argue that the role of farmers' markets may not be best understood through the lens of the local but, rather, through their role in facilitating citizen engagement with the food system via the direct consumer–producer relationship at markets and the characteristics of the food purchased there (i.e. freshness and quality). In these ways, farmers' markets can disrupt conventional forms of engagement with the food system, creating a space that enhances social embeddedness and which may promote new forms of consumer understanding of food systems.