Farmers market finding its groove again

Great to reconnect . . . Janefield Paeonies & Hydroponics co-owner Roger Whitson was pleased to reconnect with market-goers during Saturday's Otago Farmers Market. PHOTO: MICHELE DRISCOLL

Sunny skies on the past three Saturdays have given vendors a boost since the Otago Farmers Market reopened on May 16.

Otago Farmers Market general manager Kate Vercoe said the six-week closure of the market during the Covid-19 lockdown was a busy time for vendors, as they worked to find ways to get their produce to customers.

“It was peak growing time for many of our vendors, so they were connecting with customers online and delivering boxes of produce to people’s doors,” Ms Vercoe said.

For some, Alert Level 3 was a busy time, vendors in Dunedin delivering about 150 vege boxes each week.

However, the enforced hiatus had also given business owners the chance to “work on their business, rather than in it”, coming up with new ideas and innovations.

Returning to its home in the car park at the north end of the Dunedin Railway Station, the market has followed Covid-19 Level 2 protocols, offering customers the three most popular apps to sign in, volunteers also taking names and contact details.

There were 30 vendors on May 16, 40 on May 23 and 50 on May 30, so the market was almost back to full strength.

“We have plenty of space, so maintaining social distancing is not a problem.

Great Saturday . . . Otago Farmers Market manager Kate Vercoe enjoys Saturday’s sunny day and busy market. PHOTO: MICHELE DRISCOLL

Janefield Paeonies & Hydroponics co-owner Roger Whitson has been delighted by the strong turnout at the Saturday markets, as people’s confidence returns.

“The beautiful weather has really helped, and people seem happy to be out and about.

Operated by him and his wife Cindy, who have been stalwarts of the market for 16 years, the Janefield facility was kept ticking over during lockdown, the pair putting strawberries into the freezer to preserve them.

“So now we are selling frozen strawberries, which people are loving for making smoothies,” Mr Whitson said.

Unfortunately, during lockdown, hydroponically grown herbs and salad greens had to be discarded.

“The Covid-19 situation has focused people’s minds on the need to buy local, which is great for us and the market.”