Unrest within Farmers' Market

By Barbara Gillham


MIDWEEK


BARBARA  GILLHAM

A rift is developing between stallholders at the weekly Wairarapa Farmers' Market.

Since it began nearly six years ago the market's location, held on Saturdays at the Solway Showgrounds, has been questioned by some, and has continued to be an issue that has raised its head.

Other concerns include the $30 charge stallholders have to pay each week, a drop in visitors to the market, lack of market management and committee member issues.

When Solway was chosen Stephanie Gundersen-Reid, of what was then Go Wairarapa, was co-ordinating the venture.

At the time she said "to have the market at Solway Showgrounds with its agricultural and pastoral heritage was ideal and it would be wonderful to see the historic buildings used more regularly".

Today her opinion hasn't changed.

"We were looking at Clareville or Solway but we decided on Solway as it was a farmers market and the venue was picked for a reason it had that farming feel, plus it's covered so it could be used all year round.

"If the market were moved it would lose that farming feel, it's not a car boot sale but it might be more like one if that happened."

Several stallholders share Ms Gundersen-Reid's views and would hate to see the market move even if a suitable alternative venue could be found closer to town.

One of those is Miles King, of Kingsmeade Cheese, who has been a stallholder since the market began and a committee member for two years before stepping down recently. Mr King believes the venue is perfect and disagrees there are any major problems or issues, describing it as a very 'compatible' market.

"It's a very good venue, very safe. There has been discussion over the year about should we move but I can't speak highly enough of the place. I think it's like a lot of places - it is a destination in itself and I'd hate to see it shift."

Mr King agrees that for some stallholders business can vary seasonally and be quieter at certain times, but describes this as normal and to be expected.

Eddie Henrard, of Machiatoo Expresso, has also been involved since the market's inception, and also believes the venue is perfect.

"I don't think it's something that's a major. Since the recession has hit there has been less money about, but the market is going well.

"We are currently looking for a new market manager. We haven't had one for a while due to some unfortunate circumstances, but we have had several applications and hope to have someone in that position soon.

"I think people are grumbling because it's that time of year. A lot of the people grumble but don't step foward and do anything, we need some new blood and new energy."

Mr Henrard says recently Mr King had offered to put together a flyer about the market to go into motels, hotels, restaurants etc but no one seemed keen, and he got little response from other stall holders.

"Miles was going to pay for it himself but for some reason no one seemed to realise that, so it Fees and site subject of discussions

didn't happen. He'd even got together with a designer for it."

Dot Bissett, of the Wee Red Barn, has been a regular stallholder for the past five years and disputes that.

"The flyer idea started about three years ago and Miles was going to pay for it. But it's been talked about for some time and nothing's happened. It was still being talked about only two weeks ago.

"We've had a stall at the market for years and it's definitely quieter now than it was in the beginning. I've noticed every year we are getting slightly less customers and less people coming through. We pay $30 each week for the stall and a lot of that goes to the A and P Society, I'm not sure how much - I have asked to see the minutes, but never have. What I have to ask is what would the A and P Society get if we weren't there? I think it's too much. I think we should be closer to town, it would make us more open to the locals.

"Miles may say the market is a destination in itself, well for who? Tourists? What about the locals who would walk to the market if it was closer to town?"

Steve Matthews is a relative newcomer to the market with his seaweed fertiliser, and although he thinks the venue is fine he does think the $30 weekly charge is a little steep.

"It will be good when they get the new committee and market manager in, hopefully there will be more marketing done and things will improve."

Vaughan Paul, of Paulownia Wine, says a new committee will be elected shortly.

"The new committee will be charged with coming up with answers to these issues. I think the building is perfect for the market, it's iconic.

"But there are two issues here, one is wherever we are it's got to be worthwhile to stallholders, and two - it's got to be good for the community.

It will be up to the new committee to decide if changing venue would be for the best."

We want to know what you think. Should the farmers market move or stay?

We would like to publish your views.

Email your thoughts to barbara.gillham@age.co.nz.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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