Association nurtures farmers' markets

Carla
Carla Allen
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Fridays are production days for Natalie Smith of Hilltop Cottage Farm. During high demand times she bakes up to 40 dozen artisan scones in mouth-watering flavours for the Yarmouth Farmers’ Market the following day.

Evelyn Hurlbert from Riverview Produce Farm in Tusket, Nova Scotia had an assortment of vegetables for the first market of the year on Jan. 21 at the Hawthorn Street barn.

Most people would either be crashing from exhaustion or saving up reserves of strength for the other days of the week, but Smith has other priorities.

As the president of Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia (FMNS) she’s focused on branding and promotion.

“Our mission or goal is to create a positive environment for the community through farmers’ markets,” she said.

FMNS is a provincial association that represents 22 farmers’ markets at this time. Certified markets have a market manager or at least four members that have received market training.

The organization has been raising awareness, helping markets access project funding, and promoting skills training since 2004.

Smith says there are many markets popping up in small communities or villages but that there are basic criteria for farmers’ markets as opposed to any other type of market.

The requirements of a farmers’ market includes that vendors should be primary growers of fruits and vegetables, or pastured animals. Value-added products have to be a product they’ve made. Local means local.

“Farmers’ markets are now a business and when they become a business you have to be respectful of regulations to make sure it’s a safe environment for the customers. There is implied integrity and quality. When you come into a FMNS market this is what the consumer should feel,” she said.

She views farmers’ markets as a wonderful opportunity to profile the region, the ingredients, and how creative vendors can be with food and artisan crafts. Sometimes it’s the person that is the event in itself.

For her, the exciting thing about the direction of these markets is that each is creating their own personality.

One of the many benefits of belonging to FMNS is the networking.

“When you belong to the association it allows you to network in a way that’s non-competitive. It’s cross-marketing and cross-promotion. We’re on Facebook, liking each other, congratulating each other. It allows us to think outside of the box,” she said.

Smith says she’s, “head over heels,” about the Yarmouth Farmers’ Community Market’s success.

“I’m just in love with it, the location, everything. Our two-week hiatus in January shows you how our community really has created a tradition: that was our goal – to create a destination on a Saturday that brings back that warm and fuzzy feeling.”

For more information on the FMNS, visit the website

The Vanguard

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Yarmouth

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