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Farmers Market: Vital and Thriving

Helping my 6 year old daughter to realise her charity fundraising idea has taken me to my local Farmers Market each week – & I was struck by the positive energy and interactions taking place. It is so much more than a place to stock up on provisions

Photo of Paul Keys
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Timaru is a town of 30 000 in the rural heart of New Zealand's South Island. Every Sunday morning stalls appear in the park behind the tranquil beach, where local farmers and artisan food producers sell the goods they make. It is a regular date for a decent slice of the community, the place is abuzz from 8:30 until midday, and it seems that half of the customers arrive early and leave late, taking coffee and sitting to chat and brunch on the range of goodies they have just purchased. It is hard to believe that the market has been running for only 16 months! Seasonal produce can be brought by anyone and sold at a community stall, today an amazing variety of apples were turned into the most delicious aromatic juice, using the labour of any passing youth, where they are stationed around a central table to core, chop and press bags of fruit brought along by yet other shoppers. Teen friendships are formed.

The producers are enthusiastic about the market, which gives them the opportunity to sell their products at retail rates rather than the wholesale rates offered in other distribution channels. Farmers Markets are the only outlet for many of them , despite supermarkets and distributors chasing them . It seems the ability to get a sustainable price for their goods enables them to focus on quality rather than quantity, as the local area had 3 winners of the 12 awards nationwide in the recent prestigious Cuisine magazine annual food awards, 2 of them on site in Timaru Farmers Market, and one at a market 30 minutes drive away. Pretty impressive for a province that has a little over 1% of New Zealands' Population. Organic and Ethical are nearly universal philosophies among the producers.

Local, sustainable, by and for the community. No wonder the place is so alive . I feel joy at being a consumer from this place, and the stories of enthusiatic growers and cooks being able to ditch the day job completely to do what they love because of this model were INSPIRING.

I want this to be the default option for getting my goods, so I would love to see it grow.

What can this hyper-local success story teach us?

Is there hope that the passion up for grabs alongside all the great produce will encourage more would-be entrepreneurs into food production and farming? And expand the range of goods which can be sustainably produced locally?

Is there room for more business model innovation which side-steps more traditional, commercial supply?

 Can the enthusiasm of having the producers present at point-of-sale be replicated by others so that there is still time to BE a producer, so produce can be sold fresh and frequently ?

How might participatory ventures like the apple juice scene inspire other initiatives – perhaps at scale? Can we harness the social-benefit spinoffs?

1 comment

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Hey there Dr. Keys. Wow – you've given us a lot to think about here. We're especially taken by your inquiry about balancing point-of-sale presence and actual production time. Great question – would be fab to get some global producers to weigh in about this as to what kind of significance they place on interacting with the end-point buyer. Sounds like it's quite a priority in Timaru.

Though we have to admit you've been eclipsed by your daughter's post:
Your family should be getting commission from the Timaru Tourism Board!