It is a privilege to present the 19th Otago Farmers Market Trust Annual Report.
Last year I began by saying, that the market had had to operate in the most unprecedented, unpredictable, uncertain ever-changing environment, since the market began. At that moment in time, I had no way of knowing that the months ahead would hold even more challenging times.
It is a basic human right to be able to access affordable, safe and nutritious food. With this at the forefront of our decisions we focused on doing whatever it took to make sure that the market was able to continue to trade within the Covid traffic light framework. Our number one priority was to ensure that the markets physical location met all of the COVID requirements, and safety for all was of paramount importance.
This was no mean feat and required an enormous amount of extra resourcing particularly human resources.
One of our strategic objectives was the of building strategic alliances, relationships and collaborations. This objective came into its own with the strengthening in particular of our relationship with Farmers Markets NZ and other Markets around the country. This support network became very valuable, especially to ensure the continuity of food distribution via Farmers Markets.
Another objective was to increase the numbers attending and their average spend. On reflection I realise that we were just grateful that people still kept shopping at the market (no matter how much they spent). For the first time ever, we monitored customer numbers weekly for many months at the gates while we adhered to Covid restrictions and safety on numbers, it was interesting to note from the data collected a reasonably consistent number of people each week. We later moved to just monitoring scanning and mask use into the market.
The Market has always supported local community groups, schools and organisations each week through its community stall, enabling them to reach a large audience for their community fundraising and awareness endeavours. During the past year this has been particularly supportive to many groups/charities struggling to survive.
Our market would not be what it is without all of the people involved.
Firstly, our operational team lead by our Market Manager Michele Driscoll. Michele has an outstanding ability to handle a diverse range of tasks which is most fortunate as this role is very diverse. Her excellent communication and people management skills were certainly very evident with all that had to be managed around Covid requirements. We have acknowledged that it has been an intense year both internally and externally. Michele has handled so many, some extremely challenging situations in a very professional manner always with a focus of a positive outcome for all concerned.
Michele has become a leader amongst her peers with other Farmers Markets Managers and the whole FMNZ network. Also of special mention is the significant growth of social media, OFM is so much more visible and has a vibrant online presence.
Special thanks to our operational support staff team, Kristina Simons as Assistant Manager for just on a year before going into fulltime employment & Isabella Burnett starting mid-February (Michele appreciated/s all their graphic design skills & ability to get on with all our teams with good humour and hard work). Our wonderful Site Assistant Philip Jarvis moved onto his main day job early this year after a few years with us. Our good sport Chef Amy Dougherty, who happily pivoted to gate duties for many months while our kitchen remained closed due to restrictions, our gate teams and our waste minimization volunteers on the bins especially Telagi Papau who turns up week after week to help us out.
Our Board of Trustees are a dynamic, diverse group of people with a wide variety of expertise and experience. They are dedicated to their roles and well engaged with the work required to run the Market. I would like to take this opportunity to thank and commend them on their willingness to be way more hands on to enable compliance to Covid requirements. Overall, I consider that good decisions were made jointly between the Trust and Management, and we all worked so well as a Team.
I consider our Market is fortunate to have such an amazing team of people and I am looking forward to working alongside them again this coming year.
Of special mention. After 17 years on the Trust as a Trustee and latterly Vendor Advisor we farewelled Pat Johnston. Pat was not only deeply passionate about all that the Market stands for, but she was also very dedicated to the role and always went above and beyond. For the years I worked alongside her, my observation was that how she fulfilled her role was exemplary. Her historical knowledge of the market along with her networks and can-do attitude were invaluable in achieving many amazing outcomes. In particular she was very focused on sustainability and waste minimisation which was of enormous assistance in this area.
Kitty Caldwell stepped down, after 6 years as a Trustee. Kitty was committed to her Trustee role, always willing to put her hand up particularly for policy review and development, which she had a real aptitude for. She was also invaluable is assisting with planning and running our Bee Awareness and Harvest Festival days.
Once again doors closed others opened and we were most fortunate to be able to appoint Professor Sheila Skeaff. Sheila has an MSc in Nutritional Biochemistry from University of Guelph (Canada) and a PhD in Human Nutrition from University of Otago, where she currently teaches Human Nutrition. She is a steering committee member of Food Waste Innovations, a University Otago Research Team which measures food waste, develops reduction strategies, applies innovative technology and works to modify producer and consumer behaviour. Needless to say, with a background like this we are excited to have her as part of the OFMT Team.
Obviously, we would not have a market if it weren’t for the Vendors. Throughout the challenges of the ever-changing Covid environment which impacted our Vendors businesses, as well them personally, they showed great resilience, along with support and encouragement of each other. Trading at the Market is a huge commitment, as well as very rewarding. Our Market is very fortunate to have such a dedicated, innovative group of Vendors. Many of whom have won awards and accolades this past year.
Lastly but by no means least, our Market customers. We have a large number of loyal customers who shop at the Market every week, rain, snow, wind and sunshine. We know that they value and appreciate being able to shop for local food in a welcoming environment where they can connect with others in their community. Visitors to our city also enjoy their experience at the Market and we receive many positive comments from them.
Winning awards is not new for our Market, however this year the award we won came as somewhat of a surprise and we were so appreciative of this recognition. We won the Taylor Community Pride Shield in the 'Keep Dunedin Beautiful Awards' for dedication to waste minimisation, sustainable practice and anti-litter. We were nominated for our sustainable practice at the market and our role of making local produce accessible to members of the public and as a space we have made for the community to fundraise, public engagement and spread awareness.
Reflecting back on the past year, it is very impressive and satisfying to realise that despite the many factors that influenced and impacted the way is which we could operate our Market was still able to be:
- An authentic Farmers Market, selling regional, seasonal grown or produced food.
- The place that up to 65 individual vendors (businesses) earn learn livelihood
- A significant contributor to regional economy, access to local food and overall food resilience.
- Where the customer is able to connect and converse with the person who has grown or produced their food.
- Part of the local innovative food
- The place to go for fresh, regional, seasonal food.
- An established national and international brand.
- An incubator or start up place for new businesses to start small, test the market and grow their business/brand.
- Where many, now well established and successful businesses began.
- Inspired and educated by the market kitchen’s seasonal recipes.
- Able to socialise and converse with family, friends, to interact with like-minded people.
- A vibrant community space with a welcoming inclusive environment.
- An important part of the fabric of Dunedin City and has the reputation of being one of the must do’s when visiting the city.
- Able to support community groups and schools each week through the community stall, enabling them to reach a large audience for the fundraising and awareness endeavours.
- Able to work in partnership with other organisations to support them i.e. Kiwiharvest.
- Open to collaborative opportunities designed to benefit market vendors and showcase the market.
For our market to be ALL of this it is requires a huge amount of resourcing to ensure that it runs seamlessly every week and that the customers have a high-quality experience every time they visit. This is achieved by:
- Sticking to our principles of being an authentic Farmers Market.
- Excellent Governance and Management including taking ownership & advocating to the Government on behalf of all authentic farmers markets in NZ to allow us and other farmers markets to be able to open & operate during various Covid levels – getting results to do so (our voice was heard that farmers markets are retail not an event).
- Being financially sound, with prudent fiscal management.
- A committed and passionate strategic focused Trustee and Advisor team.
- The outstanding way our staff undertake their roles and use their high level of skills, innovation and work so well together, and especially their ability to work in a very dynamic, ever-changing environment.
- A dedicated team of volunteers, who provide support in a variety of ways.
- The buskers sharing their talents to enhance the market vibe.
- The high quality of produce, value added products and ready to eats that our Vendors have on offer.
- The commitment that our Vendors make to be there, some travelling long distances to do so.
- Vendors working together, to support each other’s businesses and provide mentoring and encouragement to each other.
- Our loyal customers who turn up every week rain, hail or snow.
- The visitors to our city who make visiting the market a must do when they are in town.
- The welcoming community centred environment.
- Continuing to attract lots of new applications to trade, which is important to ensure the continuation of our market as well a variety for our customers.
ALL that our Market is, and ALL that our Market achieves is because of each and every person that is involved. Something that we ALL should be most proud of.
As always, I feel very privileged to be part of something that is so significant to the people of my community and overall, our local food system.
Sharyn Crawford on behalf of the OFMT Team