2009 was the first year of the Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket, and we’re hoping that it wasn’t the last: a meeting tomorrow could decide our fate.
A bit of history: the Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket is one of five verified (that is, the vendors are verified to sell only their own produce) farmers’ markets in the urban Toronto area. I’m on the local volunteer committee for the market, and worked on much of the social media side of promoting the market. The farmers, Farmers’ Market Ontario (the organizers) and volunteers from all of the markets met in December to review the season; check out my post about that meeting (including the presentation that we gave, below) for more details.
The highlights of our first year:
- Opened on June 6th, ran every Saturday until October 24th
- More than 25 volunteers actively involved in organizing events, promoting the market, and helping with market-day logistics
- 11 vendors, although not all were there every week, depending on the growing season of what they were selling
- Almost 5,800 visitors over the season
- 8 cooking demos with local restaurants
- Banners, postcards, sandwich boards, email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogging and even an Ignite presentation for promotion
We were the smallest of the five MyMarkets, as could be expected in our first year: the more established markets in a family residential neighbourhood have as many as three times our visitors, although we came in at more than 60% of what the trendy Liberty Village MyMarket drew, even though it had 18 vendors including meat and cheese (sorely lacking from, and missed at, St. Andrew’s).
Tomorrow, we have a meeting with FMO and the farmers to talk about this year’s market; I’m headed out to Brampton with one of the other volunteers to talk to them about St. Andrew’s. Going to a market is a big committment for the farmers: they have to pay FMO ($500, I believe) for the season for each market that they attend, which covers the booth space and marketing costs; plus, they have to get themselves and their produce to market every week at the assigned time, rain or shine, and stick around even if a lot of people don’t show up. It’s a tough job, especially when you consider that they’re spending the rest of their time actually producing what they sell. This should be obvious, but if they don’t sell enough at a market, it’s just not good business for them.
We’re all hyped for the meeting, then received an email from FMO two days ago that said “Realize it sounds ominous…not much interest from farmers…it will be an uphill climb.” Eeeek! This is the first that we heard that there might not be enough interest from the farmers in order to have a market this year: we’d been focusing on ensuring that we could get access to the city-owned parking lot where we hold the market, lining up chefs for cooking demos to try and hold one every week, and working at increasing our volunteer base to a solid 30 people. We were a bit taken aback to think that the farmers might not want to come back.
Not much that we can do now except to show up, lay out our strengths in terms of volunteers, what we learned last year and how we plan to start earlier and ramp up faster this year. Stay tuned for more details after tomorrow’s meeting.