Are Farmer’s Markets right for
“We’re small scale producers. We have a small breeding herd, so we’re there from the birth of the piglets, right through to the end product. I pack the meat at the butcher’s, and I make the sausages myself, and then we take the products to the farmers’ markets. So every step of the way to purchase their fresh food and other products we’re involved in the production of our meats.” directly from the grower is driving the growth of “Because we are small scale, we don’t produce In Victoria – the farmers’ market capital of the quantities that would allow us to supply our Australia – there are over 90 farmers’ markets products to restaurants or shops. It also means that operating regularly, with 70 per cent of these our costs are very high, and we simply would not located in regional Victoria. Each week, 22 get the returns at point of sale that we can get by markets operate across the state, attracting selling directly to the consumer. For us, its really around 35,000 people, and according to a the only way for our business to be profitable.” Parliamentary Inquiry report released in October 2010, generating $227 million per year for the Elizabeth attends three markets each month, each of which requires many days of preparations to build up stock for sale on market day. One of The growing popularity of farmers’ markets the more popular markets in Melbourne is the presents operators of small or niche agricultural Collingwood Children’s Farm Market, held once a enterprises with a unique opportunity to bring month in the inner urban suburb of Abbottsford. their products to market. For some, the markets To attend the market, Elizabeth must get up at are an opportunity to introduce a novel product to 3am, and drive three hours from home to set consumers and to gauge it’s potential in the wider up her stall. As a food retailer, she must ensure marketplace. In the case of smaller producers, the that her products are packed, transported and farmers’ markets provide an avenue for selling displayed according to strict food health and safety small quantities of produce that would otherwise guidelines. Yet, despite the efforts required, she be insufficient to meet the needs of large retailers values the control she maintains over her business by selling through the farmers markets.
For free-range pork producer Elizabeth Behrendt “Being able to discuss my product with the of King Valley Free Range Pork, it is the latter customers, telling the story behind its production, that brings her to the farmers’ markets. Growing and even providing advice on how to best prepare rare-breed pigs from her farm in Oxley in North it is something that I value enormously. We invest Eastern Victoria, Elizabeth sells her meat products so much into our pigs, and we really feel it is exclusively through the markets. As a small important to respect the meat, so is critical for producer, working alone, she says she simply cannot me that the consumer understands our product produce quantities that would allow her to sell her and appreciates what is involved in producing it,” gourmet products through third party retailers.
Ginseng producer John Dubois has been attending farmers’ markets for many years and agrees that the opportunity to talk to consumers is often where the “These days we find that being at the farmers’ markets is less about sales on the day, and more about marketing. Some days you won’t sell enormous quantities, but by being at the market people become aware of your product, and you have an opportunity to form a relationship with potential customers, which may translate into sales “The workshops are also a great opportunity for for us down the track,” John said.
people to communicate their experiences and This customer contact has also allowed John to develop a network within the farmers’ markets. identify opportunities to broaden his client base by That sense of community is a really important element of the markets, and it certainly one of the benefits to producers and consumers alike.” “We started off with just fresh and dried ginseng Things to consider before selling at a
root products. But over the years I’ve added farmers market:
powdered ginseng, ginseng tablets and ginseng ointment to our range to meet customer demand.” Know your product and your target audience, and select a market that will attract the type of But while Elizabeth and John have years of customers you are looking for. Visit several markets experience through trial and error to understand beforehand to get a feel for the general atmosphere.
how farmers markets can work for them, new Make sure you understand the legal requirements businesses may not have the time or resources to of being a market stall holder. If you are selling test the markets to see if it is the right approach food produce, make sure that you adhere to the for them. For this reason, the Victorian Farmers food safety regulations for production, as well as Markets Association (VFMA) has introduced any food handling requirements with regards to a series of free workshops for prospective stall transport, packaging and storage of your products. holders to help them better prepare for the market You will also need to ensure that you have the experience. Workshop coordinator Erena Norgard necessary insurance to sell at the markets.
believes that the workshops are an opportunity for producers to determine if farmers’ markets are Join an accredited market. This ensures the authenticity of the farmers’ market, providing consumers with the confidence that they are “We cover a range of topics, including accreditation, dealing directly with the producer. “For me, going how to access the markets, compliance information to an accredited market is really important,” such as permits and insurance and how to get the says Elizabeth Behrendt. “I’ve been to quite a few most out of the markets through marketing and regional markets where they’re not accredited, and they’re not really farmers markets. And my experience has been that those markets are quite After attending the workshops, producers are difficult–anyone could go to the abattoir, buy encouraged to apply some of this information to some pork, and set up at those markets, and I can’t their individual circumstances, and once they are ready to attend a market, they are offered a subsidised stall at the VFMA-run farmers’ market Know your competition, and understand the competitive landscape. This will help you to position your product appropriately, and target “This gives new producers a chance to try out your marketing to the appropriate audience.
the markets and gain a better understanding of what is involved before they go out and do it for Finally, understand and believe in your product. themselves,” Erena said. “It also allows them to get If you don’t stand by your product, then you a feel for their competition and test their product in are unlikely to convince other people that they Erena believes that farmers’ markets offer rural Youna Angevin-Castro is a communications consultant and freelance journalist. She leads Castro Communications, a print producers a chance to meet like-minded people and and web services organisation specialising in innovation in art develop a system of support for their business.
& design, science and agriculture.
Passion to Profit – the magazine of New Rural Industries Australia Issue 3 – 2011


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