This post is from the FSN 2012 Community Report. To find out about farmers' markets across the province operating in 2013 visit here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest your community initiative for a future report.
There are new Farmers’ and Community Markets starting every year in Newfoundland & Labrador. The idea for the Grand Falls-Windsor Farmers’ Market came out of the Town’s downtown re-development plan. The plan called for new fountains, new lights, and a new farmers’ market. As the re-development moved forward, so did the market.
The Town’s goal was to support local farmers and crafts people. When they put out a call for interest in the market five farmers and seven other vendors showed interest in having a venue to sell their goods. The Town first discussed a physical building, but decided that an open-air market using large tents provided by the Town would be a better approach.
How successful is the market? The market ran every Saturday, with 400-500 customers throughout the day and most vendors selling out. The market opened on June 30th, 2012, timed to coincide with a large biannual flea market adjacent to the farmers’ market, and ran until December. Organizers even held a trial second market day on Fridays because of interest from vendors.
Gary Hennessey, Economic Development Officer with the Town, says that the farmers are all very pleased. Some vendors have doubled their sales in comparison to their other sales avenues. Food products on sale include beef, quail and duck eggs, vegetables, and occasionally fish. Vendors use the market’s Facebook page to let people know if they’ll be at the next market and what products they’ll be carrying.
Hennessey explains that the vendors benefit from having a venue that they never had before. The Town promotes it for them, handling all the advertising of the market. Other businesses in the area, such as a nearby coffee shop, also serve market customers on Saturdays and have seen increased business on market days.
Dr. Michael Bland, an organic beef farmer, is hoping to increase awareness of his business while selling at the market. Bland got into agriculture on a smaller scale initially, without plans to sell commercially, but business has increased due to word of mouth. He’s hoping to have more orders of larger cuts of beef in the winter, after the market ends.
Bland was surprised that many didn’t know about the extent of local agriculture. “50% of the people I meet there have no idea that there is any agriculture near Grand Falls-Windsor.” Bland says. "It’s amazing how people don’t know what’s there”. Bland thinks there is great potential for agriculture in Newfoundland “if you want to put your back into it”.
Consumers also benefit from having one location to access healthy, local food. “We do have many of our farmers who do sell locally to Sobeys and Dominion here and they also set up in their own locations from time to time to sell as well, but now,” Hennessey says, “with the Farmer's Market we are establishing a permanent, fixed location for consumers to consistently access local food.”
Hennessey was afraid that bad weather might turn away customers, but on one Saturday with major wind and rain the vendors still sold out. “All in all”, he says, “it was a very nice summer for the market.” On really hot days throughout the summer kids played in a nearby water fountain and families used the picnic tables available at the market. “It’s becoming a real social point for the community”, says Hennessey.
The market does face challenges. Some farmers are too busy to come to the market to sell on a Saturday. Hennessey is looking to attract prepared food vendors and entertainment to the market to increase the number of vendors. To make the market more sustainable the Town would like to see farmers and other vendors eventually take over the market in the form of a coop.
FSN’s resources for farmers’ markets were used in developing the Grand Falls-Windsor Farmers’ Market. The Town used FSN’s Farmers’ Market Best Practices Toolkit when considering the structure of the market, and the newly developed Farmers' Markets Food Safety Handbooks were valuable in developing market policies.
Visit the Grand Falls-Windsor Farmers’ Market on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GrandFallsWindsorFarmersMarket