Willunga Farmers Market has grown up

Since the move to the sidewalk areas outside The Alma Hotel and Fino’s in Hill Street Willunga, as the market grew out of their original location, there have been quite a few changes. The new brand with the pitch fork logo, the introduction of the community membership scheme and the engagement of administration, book-keeping and marketing staff all demonstrate that this is a serious business.

The chair of the Willunga Farmers Market, Jude McBain says, “…we see ourselves [the committee] as managing a multimillion dollar business – it’s about people’s livelihoods. People put their trust in us as we have helped farmers to say goodbye to the packing shed and be brave by selling all their produce via the market.”
The estimated turnover from the market in total is around $5-6 million / year with Jude’s own business, Blue Cottage Almonds, selling their entire crop at the farmers market at retail prices.

Entirely self-funded, the market as a not for profit association derives a third of its income from the community membership scheme and two thirds from stall holder fees. The membership scheme has helped to build the market’s database to 2000 strong, with 50% from the township of Willunga, 20% from the next towns along like McLaren Vale, 20% from the Southern Suburbs of Adelaide and 10% from metropolitan Adelaide, interstate and overseas.

Willunga Farmers Market founder and local food identity Zannie Flanagan developed the scheme which has been introduced at the Adelaide Farmers Market at the Wayville Showgrounds, the Adelaide Hills and Victor Harbor markets. The scheme provides a 10% discount at all stalls, advance invitations to all events, voting rights at the AGM and the opportunity to run for a committee position.

As the committee of nine representatives, made up of stall holders and community members, has matured, training in governance and the introduction of a code of practice, has been critical to their success. The committee works to ensure that they and stall holders are up to date with issues that affect the market and their businesses. The introduction of Fair Work Australia, business risk management, an ongoing focus on food handling requirements, labelling regulations and food measurement via the National Measurement Institute are all examples of where the committee has been a conduit of information and advice for stall holders.

With anywhere from 1500-5000 visitors per market depending on the season and an average of 2000 visitors, an underlying philosophy is the importance of minimal food miles and feeding the local community. From the first market on 23 February 2002 with 18 stalls, the market now has around 100 registered stall holders with each market seeing 60-65 selling their produce and products. Well known brand names are mixed in with up and coming growers, producers and value-adders with anything from bakery items and bread, coffee, eggs and milk, the orchard, bee hive, fish shop, florist, meat street, body beautiful, garden centre, kitchen pantry, vegie patch and bottle shop.

Stall holder David Boag, owner of Ashborne Valley Orchards has run his family business for thirty years. He and his two sons sell most of their apples, pears, cherries, quinces and fresh apple juice via local farmers markets. David says it works for him as he gets feedback from people, it’s a more pleasant way to sell and there is the important consideration of food miles. They have regular customers who ask for specific varieties of fruit and so David has put in apples and peaches that are not commercial and picked with cotton gloves but people love them.

The Willunga Farmers Market supports local schools across the community with the provision of grants for school gardens and to buy seeds and fruit trees. The first Twilight Christmas market was a great success and future plans include the development of a new strategic plan, moves towards a state Farmers Market Association and the use of social networking as part of their marketing mix.

Open every Saturday from 8.00 am – 12.30 pm read more about the Willunga Farmers Market at the website: http://www.willungafarmersmarket.com/.

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