Monday, June 12, 2006

A few weekends back I caught a public notice placed in the DomPost by Moore Wilson. They were after stall holder expressions of interest for a farmers market in Porirua. Fantastic! A local farmers market is a very real means of re-establishing vibrancy in the local produce market. They not only strengthen community links, but also ensure a greater degree of local consumer revenue reinvestment. They're a more sustainable alternative to large retail outlets who insist on trucking fruit and veg the length of the country.

This article outlines how one farmer has been able to retain control of sales and ensure quality through running a stall at the Hawkes Bay farmers market. An article in today's DomPost provides a broader picture in highlighting a farmers market resurgence - possibly as "a backlash against the supermarket ownership duopoly" which I have written about previously. A national network of markets is aided by the Farmers Market NZ Assn. - who provide advocacy and regulatory guidance for new and existing markets. One assumes that Moore Wilson and FMNZA are collaborating on the Porirua proposal.

A little research revealed that a fellow Wellington blogger discussed the concept in broad terms only a month ago. He expressed a desire to see a farmers market in the CBD. Not likely. Well, not a comprehensive, dynamic farmers market at least.

Farmers markets traditionally operate on weekends only - and some only monthly. For a dynamic farmers market to fly in the Wellington CBD an exceptionally versatile building would have to be found/built that would not otherwise be used on weekends. Unfortunately existing weekend uses are the bread and butter for most public buildings.

Land values and rents are simply too high for a Wellington CBD farmers market to be viable as a stand alone entity. It would be fantastic to see one in the CBD - and if you've been to Suva you'll know of a pretty good example of how it can work.

Unfortunately the small fruit and veg market at the Willis-Vivian corner is an anomaly, the weekend market on Wakefield St is getting the sqeeze from other "waterfront" uses, and the existing Saturday Porirua vegie market is a fair-weather-early-bird affair.

Aside from a clever property-share arrangement, the only viable Wellington CBD (almost!) option would seem to be subsidised use of land at somewhere at Centreport or the rail yards. Centreport are clearly heading in a more commercial direction, leaving WCC-Ontrack negotiation for use of the rail yards the only forseeable prospect.

No wonder Moore Wilson went for a Porirua location. And good on them for taking the plunge. I hope we'll be able to get to it from a railway station...


Tom said...

Hi there,

Thanks for the link. I think that while some of my commenters were specifically talking about a Farmers Market, the concept I had in mind would be quite different. Rather than the producers themselves selling stuff out of the back of trucks once a week, it would be more like Moore Wilson Fresh, but selling exclusively local products.

I agree that a traditional weekly open-air market would be hard to operate in the CBD, and probably a bad idea - that's a lot of land for something that's only used once a week. That's why my suggestion would be more like a gourmet deli with a touch of convenience store (selling locally-made prepared meals like Wishbone & Soho) and a bar/restaurant using local ingredients. Somewhere that locals could grab the ingredients for dinner while walking home, but that also has a point of difference that makes it a destination for tourists.

While the Willis/Vivian site looks like it will be developed soon (it was sold recently, but I've suggested ways in which a market could be incorporated into any development), the Waitangi market will stay. It's been shoved around a bit while the park is under construction, but some sort of market has always been in the long-term plans.

Another option for open-air weekend markets would be to use sites that are naturally only used during the week. School grounds could be an example: how about Mt Cook school?

Guv said...

Like the school idea...
Schools are constantly searching for funding top-ups - and what better way to conduct community outreach?

I think there's more than a little something in your "gourmet deli - convenience store" suggestion. Kinda like a "local" food hall - but raw ingredients and void of golden arches and plastic forks. Nice.

There's probably scope within the CBD (in both location and economic terms) for something like that to fly. It would have to be a little more central than the Willis/Vic/Vivian site.

The broad concept is essentially a showcase of local food - for local benefit. Sounds great..!