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‘Go time’ for Farmers’ Market…

Nicky Brooker spent an anxious and restless night before the Amberley Farmers’ Market opened to the public for the first time post-Covid-19 last Saturday.

The event’s Market Manager said she and her committee had put a lot of thought into their preparations, knowing they were among the first wave to welcome the public back to their stalls. Ohoka follows this Friday as, increasingly everyone starts to stretch their legs post-pandemic.

“Some wondered if we should have waited a week,” Nicky said. “But we’d had messages from the Farmers’ Markets New Zealand, MPI [Ministry for Primary Industries], and the Hurunui District Council. So, we were confident we had a secure plan.

“I guess I was just a little stressed, perhaps unnecessarily. Because it’s worked out perfectly, and I’m sure that our community has missed the market and the vibe it brings to our town.

“I think if we’d had of had a case of Covid-19 in Amberley it would have felt like there was more risk, but it did feel very minimal and we took plenty of adequate precautions. Some of our stall holders didn’t want to handle cash, and that was totally up to them.”

The most notable difference for visitors was the electric fence tape and standards guiding everyone to a common entry point with the mandatory sign in, and hand sanitiser. Social distancing appeared to have become more natural for everyone.

“We’re just really pleased to be back,” Nicky said. “I’m really passionate about Farmers’ Markets generally, and this market has so much potential. It’s small, but we have such a good selection of the staples like fresh bread, meat, eggs, fish, and lovely first-class artisan produce as well.”

Nicky has been Amberley’s Farmers’ Market Manager since January, and at its summer peak she says it includes up to 19 stall owners.

Regulars return

One family, which was among the first to arrive, was the Van Der Westhuizens, from Pegasus.

Corne and Antoinette Van Der Westhuizen, together with their daughters, Kara and Mia, visit most weekends. They immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa three years ago and after tripping over the event by accident. They now call in most weekends.

“We were driving through Amberley one Saturday morning, and thought, ‘Wow, look at this place’,” Corne said. “After that we started visiting regularly to buy our fresh produce here, and we’ve built a relationship with Brent from The Sausage Shed, and we have a coffee, walk around the market, and often have breakfast. It’s just a really nice family outing for us.”

Kara was quick to add that the tree house they were building – in a tree the children were allowed to play in – was one of the big draws for her.

Diversification key

For Cam and Melissa Booker lying low with perishable product could have been a nightmare.

The couple grow a comprehensive range of fruit and vegetables at their 10-hectare market garden, Grown, at Sefton. They have been supplying many of Canterbury’s farmers’ markets with fresh produce for 14 years.

Melissa said they were happy to be back, but they had used the time to diversify their business to include their Grown home-delivery service.

“Obviously we have missed the contact with our customers,” Melissa said. “But honestly, the home deliveries took off overnight, and they have completely changed how we have been able to manage our business through the lockdown.

“For us, they have been the boom of the disaster. Home deliveries are also consistent business, because everyone pre-orders and pre-pays, so we know exactly what to pick.”

Return to business

For Jan and John Field-Dodgson, of Mt Grey Olives and Hancock’s Excelsior Soap, it had been business as usual through the lockdown with the support of their “wonderful” Rural Delivery service team, which had collected and delivered orders. 

They have also been harvesting table olives during the market recess, in addition to dealing with challenging growing conditions – particularly the threat from damaging frosts.

“It is great to have the Amberley Farmers’ Market re-open, and to reconnect with our friends and customers once again,” Jan said.

Crafty return

Sue Rennie, who runs the craft market alongside the Amberley Farmers’ Market, confirmed they had held off for one more week, but assured everyone they would be ready to welcome customers this coming weekend.

“We’re definitely opening, and we’ll have 10 to 12 stalls,” she said. “Our town has definitely missed our market. And, we’re excited to be back.”

What they are saying...