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A hub for the community

Wairarapa Farmer’s market committee, from left, Lyn Tankersley, Linda Bognuda, Pauline Harwood, Kate Hepburn, and Helen Bowbyes. PHOTOS/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Market on the move and committee looking for support

Hayley Gastmeier

Every Saturday, rain or shine, the Wairarapa Farmer’s Market showcases an eclectic array of what the region has to offer.

Artisan crafts, food and beverage producers, as well as seasonal and organic gardeners fill a sheltered section in the Farrier’s carpark at the north end of Masterton, from 9am to 1pm, 52 weeks of the year.

While many stalls boast award-winning products, the market is much more than a place to pick up your weekly groceries.

“We’re an artisan market, but we’re a market where people come to be with other people – we’re a social meeting place,” said Linda Bognuda, chairwoman of the Wairarapa Farmer’s Market.

“We get people who live on their own and this is where they come to talk to people once a week.

“A lot of people come here to connect with others.”

The market was launched in 2006 at Solway Showgrounds. It moved north to the present location, owned by Trust House, about six years ago.

Pam Horncy and Chris Eichbaum have been frequenting the market ever since they began.

“This is part of our weekly routine,” Chris said.

“Partly it’s because there are things here we want to buy, but more than that, for me anyway, this place has got a strong sense of community.

“You can come along feeling a bit hoo-ha, but you leave the space and your spirit has been lifted – it’s quite therapeutic coming here.”

Pam agreed that the market attracted a “nice community of people”, adding the live music, the “no pressure to buy” attitude from stallholders, and the “high quality” products on offer were all drawcards.

Linda, who founded Gladstone Gardens in 1989, began selling her organically grown produce at the market not long after it moved to its present site.

But the time had come for it to move.

Linda said Trust House was selling the land and the market would have to find a new spot by April.

“They’ve been very proactive and supportive over the years.

“They’ve offered us the structure and we can move it.

“It cost $34,000 to build.

Eddie Henrard of Machiatto Coffee has been serving up top-notch hot brews since day one of the market.

“They’ve offered it to us, we just need to be able to relocate it.”

Trust House chief executive Allan Pollard confirmed the land was being sold, and proceeds would go into housing.

“We’re committed to upgrading our housing stock. Anywhere we believe we have got excess land, we’ll take the opportunity to sell that and any money raised we’ll put forward to advance our community housing.”

Allan said the trust and the market committee had a great relationship over the years.

“Trust House are going to give the structure to the markets free of charge and we’ll be making a small financial contribution towards moving the facility.”

Linda said there had been discussions of a potential new site with Masterton District Council.

“We’ve had a positive meeting with them, and we have a tentative location that’s promising.

“The tentative spot is a short distance away with a grassed area.”

A council spokesperson said discussions had taken place, but no decisions had been made.

Linda said the committee was seeking sponsorship from Wairarapa businesses to help improve the market structure once it had been moved.

“We want to put some sides on the structure to give us some wind protection. We’re keen to put a façade on it to make it look like a barn and so people can see the market from the road.

“People can sponsor us and we can have their advertising on the building.

“It’s important that we can shift this market and keep it going.”

Niche market a business incubator

Linda said the market meant a lot to stallholders and the community alike.

“It has a very holistic atmosphere, where customers and stall holders are like family.

“The people that come and shop don’t get this in the supermarket.

“They can’t get this kind of companionship and connectedness there.”

The number of stalls each Saturday averaged 16, with up to 24 on a busy weekend, she said.

“We’re all specialists in what we do.”

Pauline Harwood, of Lavender Magic, has been a stallholder since the market’s inception.

“It’s a small niche market but it’s the quality of it that keeps the customers coming back each week and we get to know everyone.”

Pauline’s lavender products have won awards, as have other items on offer at the market such as Miles King’s cheese.

Miles King of Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese making a sale.

Miles, of Kingsmead Artisan Cheese, has also been involved since the beginning.

“There’s a lot of very good skilled people who have started out selling their products here and then have grown their business.

“The market works as an incubator.

“It’s a great way of meeting customers and getting your product and brand known,” Miles said.

Mohammad Eriqat, originally from Jordan, knows this is true, saying the market had been “amazing” for his family business.

Mohammad has been selling Arabic food, made by his wife, under the brand Akel Zaki.

“[The market] has been great for us to learn more about the Kiwi tradition and culture through other people.”

Masterton grower Leanne Woolston has been a market stallholder since 2010.

“The first year we just grew pumpkins and everyone through we were mad. That’s how we started, and it’s grown ever since. We just grow seasonal produce and we do it all the old school way.”

Helen and Iain Bowbyes, of Ridgeway Olives, sell their oil at the market.

Helen said it was about “building connections and a rich community.”

Iain agreed. “Over time, you get to know the regulars. It’s a real social event.”

Helen Smith, of Wakelin House, is another original stallholder and her passion for the market has not diminished over the years.

“It’s the people, it’s the stall holders, it’s the customers – I actually look forward to a Saturday.

“The customers have really become friends because we have known them for so long.

“We get to know all about their families – I tell them about my news, they tell me theirs.”

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