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Farmers’ Market booming

Market chairwoman Linda Bognuda shows off one of the areas the market is looking to expand into. PHOTOS/ELI HILL

After its move to the Solway Showgrounds from the Farriers car park, word on the street is that the Wairarapa Farmers’ Market is booming. Midweek reporter ELI HILL packed a reusable bag and went to investigate.

A large old tree provides shade for a row of outdoor stalls pointing towards the entrance to the Wairarapa Farmers’ Market.

Some of the produce on display at the market.

There’s a stall with flowers and plants, a stall with dried seaweed, and a stall with fresh vegetables.

Although it’s off the main drag there’s plenty of people buzzing around.

The inside portion of the market is packed with smiling people who amble their way past sausages, olive oils, flowers, books by local authors, pastries, honey, kombucha, chutneys, vegan treats, and cheeses.

Live acoustic music floats through the space, it’s played by Stefan Brown and Gail O’Callaghan.

“It’s great. I reckon what happens here for me is the essence of what Wairarapa’s really about, there are people coming together, they make things and bake things and stuff,” Stefan says.

The chairwoman of the market is Linda Bognuda who also runs Gladstone Gardens – a stall selling greenhouse-grown vegetables.

Janet King of Kingsmeade Cheese.

She takes me to meet the 22 stallholders selling their wares, and along the way explains a bit about the market.

The market was launched in 2006 at Solway Showgrounds, although not in its present location – instead, it was at the sheep yards which could be vulnerable to the wind.

After about five years, it shifted north to the Farriers car park where it remained until it shifted back to the showgrounds in May, Linda says.

While the market isn’t adjacent to SH2, Linda says new signage and social media have been working to attract people.

According to treasurer Lyn Tankersley, the market has been hitting 22-23 stalls in past weeks whereas through winter at the Farriers car park they were hitting nine to 12 stalls a week.

Lyn, who also runs the stall Forest Home Plants, says she could see the market expanding.

Sharon Harper and Lynn Morrell of Wild Chix’s Museli.

“I estimate we’re getting 400-500 people which is probably twice as many as we were getting.”

Stallholders looking to join the market can sign up for $10 a week for six weeks. People looking for something more long term pay $20 a week.

All the stallholders I spoke to have seen their sales increasing – this includes Steve Matthews – ‘The seaweed man’ who has been at the market for 11 years.

“My sales went up 80 per cent I reckon – easy.

“I’m getting people coming from Wellington, from Featherston, I had some people come over from Pukerua Bay the other day.”

His seaweed, which contains 21 minerals, is collected from the Glenburn coast.

Steve dries it and turns it into mulch.

Leanne Woolston of B & L Gardens grows seasonal produce and says there was a ‘big difference’ since moving to Solway.

Steve Matthews –
‘The seaweed man’.

“Usually I would do the Sunday market but for the most part, I don’t at the moment just because I’m selling so much here.

“There’s always different faces all the time – you get a few of your regulars, but you’ll get quite a few people from Wellington coming over.”

Linda says they’re trying to grow in a balanced way.

“If we had 10 people selling the same thing it wouldn’t work – we’re very careful not to have too many people doing one thing until we can get bigger and then we’ll add another one. It’s very considered.”

Linda and the committee have ambitions to expand the market – and they have plenty of spaces to do so including the showgrounds kiosk, and a second hall that leads on from the first.

“We’ve got some plans in place to target other groups to join us – things that the committee is working on.

Gail O’Callaghan [left] and Stefan Brown.
“We would welcome applications from Wairarapa manufacturers of fine arts and crafts, people who do woodwork, who do creative knitting, and weaving. Wine, craft beer, any of those things – but we want it to be local and we want to grow the economic base here because a lot of businesses start as small businesses.”

For Sebastian Nebel of Bavaria NZ, which produces high-quality sausages, the market is a good place to get to know customers.

“It’s great getting feedback from your customers, and there’s good banter and all that.”

  • The Wairarapa Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from 9am-1pm at the Solway Showgrounds, Masterton.
  • More information can be found at www.waifarmersmarket.org.nz

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