Links with other markets & artisan groups


#1

Bentley Heath Country Market has a stall at the farmers market in Solihull, the first Friday of every month. Last Friday I went round the stalls as usual looking for suitable “recruits” for our hub. What I tend to find is that a lot of them come from quite a long way away & so wouldn’t be interested in joining the hub for what might be quite small sales.
I then had a “light bulb moment” when it struck me that they do not have to offer their goods every week. They could offer their goods just in the cycle that preceded the farmers market & I could pick up their goods when we set up our own stall & take them on to Bentley Heath Country Market (& maybe Wythall and Balsall Common the next day). Even if their sales were modest they would have nothing to lose & it might, at least, cover their petrol getting to the farmers market.
It goes further than that, though. One of the good things about the OFN platform is that to offer your goods to another Hub you just have to give them permission. There is no extra work to do. A stallholder who goes to Solihull one week might go to another farmers market the next week, another the week after that, & so on. In each place, if their was an existing hub, they could give permission for the hub to offer their goods that week. Ideally this would be on the basis of someone from the hub collecting the goods from the market. Most of these stallholders operate a stall solo & are already run ragged with the amount of traveling they have to do.
An arrangement like this would be mutually beneficial for Hub & trader. It would also be good public relations for the OFN. Most street markets are struggling to survive. If the OFN was seen to be a force for the good in making street markets more viable then it would get good press. Maybe you could get programmes like Country File or Radio 4’s Farming Today to do an item on the relationship.
Finally, I think this could be a way of encouraging more of our Country Markets to join OFN & set up a hub. It’s something I have been thinking about and there’s no getting away from the fact that it is a lot of work, which is a deterrent. On the other hand if a Country Market started off with a hub that opened once a month, to coincide with a local farmers market, it would be a lot less work. They would have a handy group of desirable artisan producers that they could tap into & they could operate just the one cycle for whichever of their markets they could get the goods to.
There’s another group that might get involved on this basis too. Craft shop centres. Most of these live a rather hand-to-mouth existence. If they operated a hub through OFN once a month to tap into a nearby farmers market they would get an added income & an extra stream of people through their doors as they came to collect their goods.


#2

Thanks @CharlyeW I agree – this is the essence of the Open Food Network. More and more producers and hubs are setting up across the UK. Have you seen the OFN map recently? And the more populated the Network becomes, the more opportunities there are for the links you describe.

Kent Farmers’ Market Association are planning to use the Open Food Network as a click and collect service for their markets. This will make it even easier for your Country Market hubs to link up with local producers because all those producers will already be set up on OFN and all you will need to do is set up an enterprise relationship with them to add their products to your shopfront.

The other benefit of linking up to farmers’ markets is that the farmers are travelling in to the market from the surrounding rural areas and travelling back with empty vans. They are starting to make use of that empty space to take back boxes of pre-ordered produce from the hubs to their farms and offer a local collection service to homes and villages near their farms. This massively extends the geographical reach of the market and gives more people access to local produce whilst reducing food miles. It also gives the farmer an additional small income by charging for the pick-up point service within OFN.

Yes I will try to involve the likes of Country File and Farming Today in this conversation.

Thanks
Nick