Every town or city needs a farmers’ market and Nelson has a beauty, it may be on the small side compared to the Saturday Market in Montgomery Square but over a number of years the farmers market has developed into a thriving stallholder owned business at Morrison Square.
It is open every Wednesday from 10.30am until about 3.30pm.
The Nelson Farmers’ Market started at Founders Park many years ago and in those days there were only a few stalls operating every Friday afternoon and early evening in the summer; since moving to the centre of town the number of stallholders has grown hugely.
So what makes a farmers’ market different to the Saturday Market at Montgomery Square, quite simple really – the stalls have to sell food products they either grow or make themselves, it also provides an opportunity for small scale producers to sell direct to market because many are just too small to sell via traditional supermarket channels.
This also means the producer is getting the best price they can for their products and the shopper gets great deals; I think many stallholders are selling their products at a little above what they would get from wholesaling to retailers but often significantly cheaper than if you buy from a traditional retailer.
The Nelson Farmers Market is controlled by an organising committee who oversee the operation of the market and any money they collect from stallholders goes back into improving the market experience and marketing, in a true cooperative manner the committee members don’t get paid for the work they do.
A couple of weeks ago I had a chat with Amme Hiser who is the market coordinator and she told me that while the market has grown significantly since the early days there is still room for a few more stallholders, all you need to do is simply apply to the committee who work with the Farmers Market NZ guidelines, someone will visit your site to make sure you are producing the product or products and not just importing and repackaging it.
I go to the Farmers Market most weeks even if it is only to pick up some fresh vegetables or a loaf of don Rodrigo’s beautiful bread and I often spend quite a bit of time chatting to other shoppers, it is such a friendly place I often find myself talking with complete strangers about how we use some things and there are always a few chefs who like to talk to the producer and are searching out interesting things to cook with.
The very best way to buy food is to buy it seasonally, eat what is in season and you will find that not only are the flavours better but the food is fresher and more often than not cheaper too.
At this time of the year you will find the guys from Neudorf Mushrooms selling their wonderful Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms as well as packets of dried wild mushrooms and of course their famous piping hot mushroom soup that makes a perfect lunch, especially if you buy a nice fresh bread roll from don Rodrigo’s to go with it.
The other stall I visit most weeks during the summer is the Romano’s tomato stall where I buy the best Isle of Capri tomatoes you will find anywhere, these are meaty tomatoes and perfect in a simple tomato, basil and mozzarella salad; the mozzarella has to come from Milk Drop Cheeses who share a food truck with Gelato Roma and Oakland’s Milk.
Way back in the days of the market at Founders Park I remember a guy sitting at a table handing out free samples of his product, trying to tempt people into trying a product that was made fresh and wasn’t full of preservatives, sugar and other strange things, to Pic Picot has a business selling peanut butter literally to the world.
This proves that if you have a great product and the local community gets behind you then you can build a big business if that is what you want.
One of the most important things a community does for stallholders is give them honest feedback and the confidence to take the next step in growing their businesses but the consumer also gets to talk to the producer and can ask whatever they like about the product, things like where is it grown, how is it made, is it organic, how do you cook it and so on.
Hiser told me it is both “amazing and a privilege to be able to highlight local products, to showcase wonderful flavours and help small producers get off the ground and become successful larger producers. We have some fantastic local producers, some of the best in the country.”
Of course there are challenges in running an operation like this and winter is one of them, “it often rains in the winter and we find shoppers think we won’t be open; we are there rain or shine. It sometimes feels like Nelsonians are spoiled by the sunshine and don’t like going out in the rain but the stall holders are a hardy lot, we just put on rain coats or stay under cover.”
Hiser says she “loves the farmers market philosophy, it is the action of buying back into the local market, you buy their products and they do business with you; doing business locally is great for the community and shopping at a farmers’ market is a direct way to support small businesses in your community”.
The Nelson Farmers Market is a little gem that the people of Nelson are lucky to have and I hope it keeps growing and developing in the perfect situation Morrison Square provides.
List of regular stallholders for sidebar
Carolyns Dosas: gluten free hot food
Country Blooms: fresh seasonal flowers
Community Stall: plants and seedlings
Dairy Coop : Milkdrop cheese, Roma Gelato and Oaklands milk
Fish Direct: fresh fish,
Golden Hill Walnuts: fresh walnut products – oil, meal, butter, shelled and unshelled,
Heatherdale Orchards: mixed fresh vegetables
Heaven freezes over: organic avocado and coconut ice (non)cream,
Hope nursery: plants and perennials,
Kiwi Kai: smoked fish, dips, pies, hungi,
Kai Connection: Cuban sandwiches,
Kumara Guy: Fresh kumara
Magic Garden: Raw food wraps, activated nuts, kale chips, bliss balls etc
Moutere Strawberries: Strawberries and jam
Muesli and co: regular muesli,
Neudorf Mushrooms: mushrooms, soup, honey, chestnuts, garlic, mushroom products,
Nutty Dlites: Caramelized nuts,
Okainamu Organics: Homegrown organic vegetables, fruit and juice
Omame: tofu and local soy products,
Pure Carnivores: raw pet food
Riverina: figs and almond products,
Romanos: Isle of Capri tomatoes and Mediterranean vegetables,
Sensational pears: pears and juice
Tasman Organics: organic vegetables,
The Italian Kitchen: fresh pasta, pizza and Italian treats,
Don Rodregiuz: fresh sourdough breads,
Brookfield Eggs: free range eggs,
Enzbee Honey: honey, herbs and related products,
Lowe’s Orchard, stone, pip and berry fruits,
Muse: Gourmet cakes,
Vedic Organics: organic vegetables,
Nuggety Creek: free range pork products,