Markets flourish as buyers think locally

By Jacqueline Smith

Organisers say farmers' markets will stay immune to economic conditions as consumers seek quality produce closer to home.

Chris Fortune, chairman of the Farmers' Market New Zealand Association, said market vendors he has spoken to have reported "fantastic growth" over the past 12 months.

The association was formed with 18 markets in 2006. It now has 42. Fortune said 12 new markets had sprung up in the past 12 months.

"As everyone talks economic doom and gloom farmers' markets will benefit. When things get tough people look closer to home, to their own backyards," Fortune said.

Adam Blackwood said he was worried about the impact of the global economic crisis but his bagel business was booming.

"I was wary of expansion over the past couple of months. But people are still prepared to spend a small amount on their little luxuries. We've never sold as much product as we are now."

Blackwood and his wife make enough selling their bakery products at six markets each weekend to comfortably support their young family.

Authentic farmers' market vendors may only sell what they grow, farm, pickle, preserve, bake, smoke or catch from within a defined local area.

Fortune said consumers were able to find bargains, quality and social interaction at their local market and as people look more closely at how they spend their money, these things became more important.

The Parnell farmers' market, which celebrated its first birthday on Saturday, opened with 26 stalls last year and now has 35 stall holders selling their own locally grown produce or home-made products.

Parker said the Parnell market attracts up to 600 visitors each week, and many have gotten to know the stall holders, so return to buy their products.

Farmers' markets are about buying seasonally and appeal to consumers who are becoming more aware of food miles and organic eating, Parker said.

The Oratia farmers' market celebrated its first birthday two weeks ago. Owner Chris Frentz said the number of stalls had almost doubled since it started and it had become a local meeting place.

"When they are shopping for food they can talk to stall owners, get tips and recipes, and have a very personal shopping experience," she said.

Fortune said he expects the number of markets to grow. He said the association measured its success on its authenticity, rather than growth rate.

- NZ Herald

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