A Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia Blog
Managers! Mobilizers! Friends and Colleagues!
Lucky us. The Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative is running a “travelling road show” version of our Market Manager-Leader-Staff professional development series in 2017.
What that means is that we can move our program around the province, offering a monthly networking and professional development day in various market locations or towns. We will meet 6 times in 2017. We will do a training/workshop in the mornings, and work on some projects together in the afternoons. We will cluster the work groups in small, medium, and large-sized market groups, so you are working with colleagues from similarly-sized markets.
The benefit is that more of you should be able to participate because, at least once, we’ll be meeting in a location very close to home. (In fact, we are hoping several of you will host a day at your market!) We hope this helps you say YES to being part of the program this year.
Here is our tentative schedule, 6 sessions in total:
- Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market – May 30
- Antigonish – June 27
- Hubbards Farmers’ Market – Oct 31
- Wolfville Farmers’ Market – Nov 28
- Truro Farmers’ Market – Jan 2018
- My office, Berwick, Kings County – Feb 2018
Of course, this is free to attend if your market is a member of the FMNS Cooperative, there is just a $30 supply fee required from each participant.
Based on the immense success of the 2016 Manager PD and Networking Program, we want a way for more of us to get together from various regions across the province in 2017. Please help us make this work! Building a network of colleagues is a TREMENDOUS way to build our overall movement and professionalism in Nova Scotia. Learning, thinking and problem-solving together is also a tremendous way to build our own individual capacities in our jobs.
I look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible, and working with this group of favourite people again this coming year.
Michelle Wolf, BA, MES
Director of Training, Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative
Certified Coach and Founder of Whole Green Heart Inc.
Web: www.wholegreenheart.com and www.farmersmarketsnovascotia.com
Postal: RR5, Berwick, NS, B0P 1E0
Photos: Wonkyeye Photography
Nova Scotia is so beautiful this time of year. Fresh air, the crunch of leaves under your boots, and the still sunny (albeit shorter and colder) days. It’s a great time to get outside and explore, provided you’ve put on a few layers!
Farmers’ markets are about more than just food, and this is a great time of year to explore beautiful knits and cozy clothing on your market trip. Here are a few reasons to add local wool to your wardrobe this season.
- Wool is a renewable, natural fibre.
- French settlers brought the first sheep to Canada in the 1650’s.
- Wool helps regulate body temperature because it is an absorbent fibre, making it suitable for warm or cool climates.
- Wool fibres do not easily pill, snag, or break, so wool garments generally outlast synthetics.
- Wool is the only natural fibre that is resistant to flame.
- We have a number of wool producers in Nova Scotia, from whom you can purchase yarns, knit wear, and other goods. Many more local artisans work with wool to create beautiful garments. Look for them on your next market trip!
Wool facts adapted from Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers Ltd. (http://www.wool.ca/).
Market shopping isn’t just a summertime thing. If you’re looking for a farmers’ market this winter, we’ve got you covered! Below is a list of certified farmers’ markets open through the Winter 2017 season.
Cape Breton Farmers’ Market
Location: 340 Keltic Drive, Sydney River
Hours of operation: Saturdays, 8:30 am – 1 pm
Greenwood Mall Farmers’ Market
Location: Greenwood Mall, 963 Central Avenue, Greenwood
Hours of operation: Thursdays, Noon – 4 pm
Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
Location: Pier 20, 1209 Marginal Road, Halifax
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri, 10 am – 5 pm; Saturdays, 7 am – 3 pm; Sundays 9 am – 3pm
Kentville Farmers’ Market
Location: Kentville Recreation Centre, 350 Main St. Kentville
Hours of operation: Wednesdays, 10 am – 2 pm
Lunenburg Farmers’ Market
Location: Lunenburg Community Centre, 17 Green Street, Lunenburg
Hours of operation: Thursdays, 8:30 am – Noon*
*Open 8:00 am – Noon until the end of December. Open 8:30 – Noon January – April.
New Glasgow Farmers’ Market
Location: 261 Glasgow Street (behind Glasgow Square), New Glasgow
Hours of operation: Saturdays, 9 am – 1 pm
Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market (opens April 8th 2016)
Location: Creamery Square, 41 Creamery Road, Tatamagouche
Hours of operation: Saturdays, 9 am – 1 pm
Truro Farmers Market
Location: 15 Young St, Truro, NS
Hours of operation: Saturdays 9 am – 1 pm
Wolfville Farmers’ Market
Location: DeWolfe Building, 24 Elm Street, Wolfville
Hours of operation: Saturdays, 8:30 am – 1 pm
Certified Farmers’ Markets adhere to a Make It, Bake It, Grow It policy. Find a certified farmers’ market near you on our Find A Market page!
Ever notice how guests seem to gather – or crowd – around a great cheese platter? Loved by guests, as well as the wise host, a cheese platter has become a staple appetizer at any party. Creating a great cheese platter can be intimidating with so many cheese options, not to mention pickles, jellies and cracker choices.
Here are 8 tips to help you build the perfect local cheese platter this season.
Tip #1: Think about variety.
Offer cheeses of different textures, colours, and with flavours ranging from mild to strong. A typical cheese platter offers an aged cheese, a soft cheese, a firm cheese, and a blue cheese. You could also consider offering cheeses of different categories based on their animal origin (e.g. cow, sheep, or goat). It’s best to have at least one cheese on your platter that is familiar to most people. 4-5 types of cheese is usually plenty for a standard party – you don’t want to overwhelm peoples’ palates and you want to be sure to leave enough space on the platter for complimentary items after all.
Tip #2: Be mindful of temperature.
Though cheese is typically stored in the refrigerator, it is actually served best when at room temperature. Allow your cheese to sit out for about an hour before serving so it is not too cold. Being at room temperature will help to better bring out the natural flavours in the cheese.
Tip #3: Leave Space.
When deciding on the placement of your cheese, keep in mind that that the flavours and smells of cheese can transfer over to one another. For this reason, it’s best not to place different types of cheese too close together and it is wise to place mild smelling cheese on the opposite side of the platter from stronger smelling options.
Tip #4: To Slice Or Not To Slice.
Some people feel it is best to cut up the cheese prior to serving to make it easier for guests, while others like to display the whole piece of cheese and let people slice it themselves. Consider the type of party you are having, and the visual elements you want incorporated to your cheese platter to decide what works best for you. Maybe you will slice up the firmer cheese, but not the soft one. If slicing ahead of time, do it just prior to serving to help maintain flavour. If offering full blocks of cheese, provide a different knife for each cheese so the flavours don’t transfer.
Tip #5: Choose pairings wisely.
Just as with the cheese, you’ll want to offer a variety of pairings but not so many that it takes away from the main attraction (the cheese!). As a general rule of thumb, have one pairing, maybe two if you have a larger group of people coming and are making a bigger platter, from each of the following categories;
- Grains (crackers, breads, etc.)
- Sweet (fruits, spreads, etc.)
- Savory or Salty (meats, pickles, nuts, etc.)
When choosing your pairings, think about what types of things will pair well with not just one type of cheese but a variety, and remember to provide any necessary utensils.
Tip #6: Keep spreads separate.
Jams and chutneys are great choices for a sweet pairing and taste delicious on top of many cheeses, but steer clear of dumping an entire spread over the cheese before serving. It is usually best to put spreads in a separate bowl or jar on your cheese platter. This way, you avoid overpowering the cheese with the spread, and it gives guests more availability to mix and match their cheese and
Tip #7: Label the different cheeses on your platter.
Consider writing labels for the different types of cheese so people know what they are. You could write up little labels or purchasing a chalkboard style cheese platter where you can write the name of the cheese directly beside it on the board. Think of it as one way to show off your selection of local cheeses – That Dutchman’s, Ran-Cher Acres, Fox Hill Cheese House!
Tip #8: Remember to provide beverages.
Many drinks compliment cheese very well, so when you are at the farmers’ market picking up your cheese platter ingredients, be sure to pick up some local wines and craft beer as well. You could think about grabbing a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and both light and dark beers to compliment a variety of different cheese flavours – and to keep everyone’s taste buds happy!
The best part about building a great local cheese platter; you can pick up everything you need at the farmers’ markets all year round! Click here to find a market near you.
Written by: Laura Woodworth, St. Francis Xavier University Dietetic Intern
“If you buy from your neighbour, your neighbour can buy from you. And it is nice to know where your food comes from.”
– That Dutchman’s Cheese
As many market vendors will attest, the old adage “if you build it, they will come,” does not always mean “… and they will buy something once they get here.” Even though the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market attracts thousands of visitors weekly, it is up to each of us to figure out how to convert those visitors into paying customers. There ARE ways you can boost sales, if you diligently and consistently apply the following:
#1. IMPROVE YOUR BOOTH’S “CURB APPEAL.”
Just like selling a house, a prospective customer forms an initial, and sometimes indelible, impression of you and your product(s) by the appearance of your booth.
– The first and perhaps most important thing you can do is have a well-lit booth. Like moths drawn to an outdoor porchlight, the human eye is also programmed to look where there is light. Boost your lighting (especially during the dark winter months) and you will attract the attention of far more customers than if your booth is dimly-lit or completely unlit.
– The second thing you can do to boost your curb appeal is to always keep your booth well-stocked and meticulously organised. If you are selling something in a container (i.e., preserves, cosmetics, oils, etc), ensure ALL labels (including those going all the way to the back of your display) are facing forward, and that the first row of product is smack-dab at the front of the shelf (known as the “leading edge” in retail terms). Furthermore, always check the status of your display. For reasons which defy explanation, the vast majority of customers who pick up a product never put it back in its proper place. So your job is to be ever-vigilant about keeping your display neat and tidy.
#2. BUILD RAPPORT.
Nothing is more important than making your customers feel welcome and appreciated. Here’s how:
– When a customer approaches your booth, be standing, smile, and extend a simple greeting such as “good morning.” If the customer’s body language seems open to further introductions, follow up with “If I can answer any questions, please let me know.” Whatever you do, don’t hover or stare. As your customer peruses your products, your job is to simply be there to help if called on. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson. Having said that, do develop people skills such that if a customer “wants” to have a conversation, by all means, go with the flow. But the most important thing is that initial encounter: standing, smile, and extend a friendly greeting… then let the customer dictate the level of contact. Some people like to be waited on hand-and-foot (they’ll let you know), whereas others prefer to browse privately. Learn how to read body language to know how much contact your customer seems comfortable with.
– After the customer has had a few seconds to look over your produce or merchandise, pipe in with a short explanation: “By the way, these vegetables all come from our family garden.” Or “I forgot to mention: our family makes these products from the yarn we spin from our sheep.” This engages the customer in the unique, quality nature of your products – available only in a farmers’ market setting.
– Wear a nametag, it is a very easy way to subtly start an informal, short-term relationship. Your customer can say: “Jane, please tell me about this product” or “Thanks for your help, Jane, I’ll be back.”
– Get to know the names of your regular customers (I keep an index card discreetly tucked under the cash register with little memory joggers like “George – tall fellow with sideburns”). Get to know a little about them (without being intrusive). This way, you can say: “Good morning, Mrs. Jones, how are you today?” or “Hi, Mrs. Jones, how was your vacation in Scotland?” This is a sure-fire way to develop loyal, repeat customers. This is also a unique aspect of farmers’ markets – customers get to know the producers/artisans, and producers/artisans get to know their customers. We truly become an extended family.
#3. UP-SELL (aka Add-Ons).
An up-sell is a psychological strategy of getting the customer to purchase additional items beyond what he/she normally would. For example, you are a jeweller, and a customer is in the process of purchasing a pair of earrings, you might say: “Oh my, this necklace would look SO good with those earrings!” Boom. You’ve now just doubled or tripled your original sale. Or, you are a prepared food vendor and your customer has purchased your victuals. A simple “Would you like salad with that today?” and/or “Can I get you something to drink?” will add a buck here, a buck there. All good for the bottom line. Another example: you sell produce and a customer is purchasing a bunch of fresh carrots. You ask: “Have you ever tried oven-roasted carrots and parsnips together?” (And be prepared to recite a short recipe). There, now you’ve sold both carrots AND parsnips.
– For long-term vendors, lease a portable credit card machine. They generally cost about $80 a month and there are swipe and transaction fees, but the mere visual sight of a credit/debit machine will significantly boost sales (guaranteed!), and it won’t take long for your machine to pay for itself many times over. (Also, some companies will let you sign short-term contracts if you are a seasonal vendor… but you have to ask, as that’s not the norm.)
Start with the above ideas and let me know if any of them pay dividends for you. Happy sales! – Dave Belt, Seafoam Lavender
*Seafoam Lavender Farm, Ltd. was one of 10 regional winners at the 2016 Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards and was the 2015 winner of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award
On November 28th, we will host the 2016 Atlantic Canadian Farmers’ Market Conference in Moncton, New Brunswick. This one-day bilingual conference is the only of its kind in all of eastern Canada, bringing together vendors, market managers, organizers and partners from NS, NB, PEI and NFLD for a fantastic day of learning and networking.
We are once again hosting this one-day conference in partnership with the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) and their annual three-day conference which takes place November 28th-30th.
Specifically, the Atlantic Canadian Farmers’ Market Conference takes place on the first day of the ACORN Conference. Farmers’ market vendors, volunteers and staff can register for the one-day farmers’ market conference at a cost of $40 (FMNS member markets and their vendors) or $50 (non-members) while ACORN conference attendees, registered for the three-day conference, can move between the farmers’ market conference and the larger ACORN conference at the ACORN registration rate.
Registration is now open for the Atlantic Canadian Farmers’ Market Conference and space is limited.
View this information in both English and French here.
(#1.) Farmers’ Market Fundamentals
This hour-long session will cover the basics – from formulas for market growth and product mix to research on why markets fail and how your market can thrive. Michelle Wolf, armed with more than 20 years of farmers’ market experience and expertise, will open the session. Keltie Butler, Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia, will follow alongside two Market Managers. With all that, we’ll still leave plenty of time for Q&A.
(#2.) Drawing Customers In: Marketing & Promotions for the Farmers’ Market Sector
In this one-hour workshop, we’ll take a practical look at what brings people to farmers’ markets generally, what draws people to specific booths at a farmers’ market (including your own), and how to build your farmers’ market business without relying on the market itself to find new customers for you. Farmers’ market selling is unique – even from other direct marketing approaches. Find out how to create a farmers’ market promotions plan that is based on best practices and that takes advantage of our sector’s unique – and powerful – value proposition.
(#3.) Business Skills & Smart Habits for Growing a Successful Business or Farmers’ Market
In this hour-long workshop for business owners, market vendors, and farmers’ market managers, we’ll dive into planning and business skills – concepts, habits and best practices. We’ll explore time management ideas, what work-life balance means for seasonal businesses, how working from home can be a blessing or a burden (and what to do about it), building good work habits, planning for success, understanding the difference between a hobby and a business, and cultivating a winning business mindset.
(#4.) Our Panel of Experts Speaks to Farmers’ Market Vendor Success
This one-hour session will bring together the knowledge and experience of both market managers and vendors thanks to our panel of 5 regional experts. Sharing their insight, and offering advice, this bilingual panel will focus on vendor success, avoiding all-too-common mistakes, and identifying opportunities in the marketplace.
Michelle Wolf is a certified coach, education trainer, and Director of Training for Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia. She has worked with over 200 farm owners, managers, and entrepreneurs to help them grow successful markets and businesses through her extremely popular training programs and as private clients. Michelle owned and operated a profitable farm-based herb company for 20+ years and sold at farmers’ markets for 18 years, also managing a mid-size farmers’ market for six years and winning Market Manager of the Year. Michelle speaks at direct marketing, farmers’ market, organic agriculture and sustainable lifestyle conferences throughout North America, and we are proud that she is one of our own. She is a dynamic, engaging workshop facilitator with a wealth of organic production and agricultural business experience, and a sought-after motivational speaker on business and personal development topics. She holds a Master’s Degree from York University, is former president of Seeds of Diversity Canada, and now runs a training consulting company at www.WholeGreenHeart.com .
It is fair to say that Keltie Butler has her hands in many local pies. The Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia, Keltie has previously worked with the Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre as well as Toronto Refugee Community Non-Profit Home and Housing and as an instructor with St. Lawrence College, teaching within the Sustainable Local Food Certificate online program. Thanks to many years of apprenticing and working on small-scale organic farms, as well as Common Roots Urban Farm, Keltie has more than whet her appetite for agriculture. In fact, in 2015 she and her partner Michael began market gardening on borrowed land, operating a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) of 17 shares in their first season. And, this fall, Keltie and her partner purchased their own farm property in Scotsburn Nova Scotia. At the heart of her love of local food and farming is the unstoppable ability of food to bring people together regardless of language, culture, or age. Keltie is passionate about community development, food security, agriculture and she has a serious sweet tooth.