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Growers Market Part of Whangarei’s Social & Economic Fabric

9 April 2014

Thriving Growers Market Part of Whangarei’s Social and Economic Fabric

From its humble beginnings in 1998, the thriving Whangarei Growers Market has become a significant community asset and is well woven into economic and social fabric of the community.

That is the finding of a Social and Economic Impact report prepared for the Whangarei Growers Markets by NorthTec and released this week. The research team interviewed the market’s retail and wholesale customers, stallholders and sought the input of stakeholders.

Economist Dr Warren Hughes estimates that the Market’s turnover of $3.66 million for the 2013 year creates additional economic activity yielding a total benefit of $9.5 million for the Northland economy. 90 people are directly employed with a further 22 through downstream impacts.

While the economic performance of the market is impressive, the report identifies some of the social impacts as even more important.

Health impacts emerged as a major contribution of the markets. Manaia Health CEO Chris Farrelly, a market customer himself, is enthusiastic about the market regarding it as a “health provider” and an “important part of the health network of our community”. 11% of surveyed customers nominated health as a beneficial impact and 34% nominated the availability of organic or spray-free produces as a benefit.

Chris regards the community building aspect of the market of equal importance, stating that “social connectivity is incredibly important for health”. Regular customers comment on the atmosphere of the market while young people who busk at the markets get opportunities to display their talents and feel a part of the wider community.

The project’s lead researcher, Peter Bruce, is Senior Lecturer for NorthTec’s Business Degree and is also a customer at the markets. “On Saturday mornings for six months, I shopped for produce and collected data. A regular presence enabled me to uncover lots of community benefits. For example, as the market winds down, Buddhi Wilcox from the Food for Life Hare Krishna kitchen crosses the road and collects produce donated by the stallholders. It is used to prepare about 500 meals weekly, supporting initiatives such as the Manaia School Free Lunch Programme.”

Other social impacts identified in the report include the attraction of the market to the migrant community, the community building nature of the market as a social space and benefits for local retailers.

The report moves beyond the original brief to explore expanding the market and it gives five recommendations for the consideration of the market’s directors, stallholders and interested stakeholders.

Included in the five recommendations is the promotion of a ‘local food movement’. This anticipates the wider provision of market produce by working with stores and restaurants. An existing example is the Tutukaka Store, whose customers eagerly anticipate market produce delivered on Saturday mornings. Fresh Café’s owners also collect produce every week and they believe the quality of produce at the market “can’t be beaten.”

Another significant part of future growth for the Market is the emergence of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market because LOHAS aspirations are compatible with what the market offers.

Other recommendations are that the WGM develop partnerships with stakeholders in the health sector, establish an online presence, pursue nearby facilities to enable expansion, and maintain the current product mix.

While the report points to initiatives for future growth, a risk to market growth is the shortage of young growers. “Younger growers are under-represented at the markets. As existing growers retire or move on, how can more younger growers be encouraged to replace them?”

The report concludes that the Whangarei Growers Market is a valued community asset that has enjoyed steady growth over the past 16 years. It attributes a large part of the success of the WGM to its business model. It is a limited liability company with two major shareholding directors, Robert Bradley and Murray Burns, and a constitution that outlines the Market philosophy based on the Market principles.

Robert Bradley – “We have a stable set of rules based on the Market principles and 16 years of experience showing us that they work. We don’t advertise. Our attitude is that word of mouth works best.”

To participate in an on-line survey about the market go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WGM2014.

Click here to read the report.

ENDS

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