Farmers’ markets are in abundance in Nova Scotia; they play an important role in our local food economy and in our communities. Uniquely, farmers’ markets gain both their stability and opportunity for growth through the relationships that they foster.
The Wolfville Farmers’ Market (WFM) began in 1992 with three vendors in a parking lot in the middle of town. It has now grown into a year-round market with over 75 vendors on Saturday mornings and a Market Supper on Wednesday evenings. Over its 25 year history, the market has fostered relationships and found its niche as a community hub and a place for entrepreneurial vendors, often young, and motivated to grow or make things sustainably.
The Farmers’ Market model pivots on selling one day a week, allowing vendors the rest of the week to farm and produce. While it has its advantages, most producers need more venues to sell their product. It’s difficult for local entrepreneurs to find the time to create whole new sales channels given their size and economies of scale. Farmers’ Markets function as a business incubator for those starting out, an important revenue stream for those developed, and a marketing gateway for some with multiple outlets. But why stop there?
Many markets are finding that they have become a social community hub rather than a grocery shopping hub. This is resulting in their producers growing more food than they can sell. The WFM decided to make a change and develop an additional sales channel for its producers.
“The WFM was already an established not-for-profit with the organizational infrastructure, a reputation for quality, and vendor cohesiveness able to build something of great value without having to start from scratch,” explained Market Manager Kelly Marie Redcliffe. “We were well aware of the marketing trends towards online shopping and the success some producers were having with Community Shared Agriculture programs. We understand that farms feed cities and that there was an opportunity to create a connection between our rural producers and an urban community hungry for fresh and local. We felt we had a responsibility to leverage our position to grow something we could be proud of.”
It is in this context that WFM2Go was born. They developed an online store that brings together 25 WFM vendors so that collectively they can offer over 250 local products year-round to 9 communities in Nova Scotia. This weekly service allows vendors to consolidate their strengths and accelerate the growth of their individual businesses by establishing new connections in new communities around the province, all without the burden of them having to develop this new sales channel on their own. “If you cannot make it to the Market, we’ll bring the Market to you,” says Market Manager Kelly Marie Redcliffe.
“It really takes everyone working together to bring this service to so many communities” said WFM2Go Manager Lindsay Clowes. “The Vendors taking part in WFM2Go actually pack their own products into the individual customer bins on Wednesday mornings. Our driver is also one of our farmers and our hub hosts offer their space freely so they can be part of a healthier food system. We all work together to bring customers a great experience. Even though it is an online store, we do our best to create relationships with our customers so that we can learn from them to improve the service”.
And, it is working! In a recent survey of WFM2Go customers, they received deeply appreciative feedback for the quality of their products, the convenience offered as well as the personal customer service delivered. “The trickiest thing I found with buying local was the inconvenience. Running from farm stand to farm stand with kids in tow was too much hassle. Enter WFM2Go, problem solved. Fresh, local, quality and convenient. This has been an awesome service for our family” said Lexie Burgess, Wolfville Customer.
The vendors are finding real value in the service as well! Emily teBogt has been with WFM2Go since it began in July. Emily produces many varieties of veggies and raises laying hens, sheep, and pigs. “WFM2Go really helps my business sell more meats and veggies to customers who normally wouldn’t buy from me. With minimal time spent marketing and selling my products, I can spend more time growing crops and taking care of my livestock” said teBogt.
The WFM believes that creating a better food system for Nova Scotia means more people having access to local product so the producers have a chance to sell all the food they grow. Investing in small scale or market farmers’ gives local agriculture a fighting chance. Since it began in July 2017, WFM2Go has earned $137,000 for its producers and its operation and for that self-same local economy. It is looking to double its’ monthly sales and impact by 2019.
How it works
Cow Customers can order online from 25 WFM vendors and pick up their order from one of 9 locations around Halifax Regional Municipality, Hants County, and Kings County. With over 250 products to choose from, customers can bring the farmers’ market straight to them.
Ordering opens Wednesday evening until the following Monday. On Tuesdays, farmers and producers pick their products and bring them to the Market, where each customer bin is packed. Orders are sent out to locations for customers to pick up during the allotted time on Wednesday afternoons. It’s not just the farmers who benefit. “WFM2Go is simply amazing! Being able to purchase all kinds of local produce and products online saves a lot of time and hassle at the grocery store. Everything is always fresh and delicious, plus I’ve gotten to know the farms where my veggies are grown and our meat is raised. Thank you so much for all you guys do, the health and happiness of my family is important and you guys are a big part of it!” Christine Day, Bedford Customer.