Farmers Market making changes for 2019

The Estevan Farmers Market has some plans for 2019 to help boost sales.

The market association held its annual general meeting on Feb. 25, and according to information released at the meeting, sales were at their lowest point in a decade. The total for 2018 was $226,629, which includes the four indoor sales in April and May, and the four Christmas sales.

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Pat Thompson, who co-manages market along with Marlene Salmers, said they would have 26-30 vendors in a typical week.

“Of course, the outdoor sales, with the weather, it could be a lot less, because if it’s really cold or raining or high winds, you might only get 10 vendors out compared to the 20 to 30 we might get on a good day,” said Thompson.

Thompson believes there were a couple of reasons for the sales decline.

The first was the absence of the popular Rose Valley Hutterite Colony, who brought produce, homemade bread and farm eggs each week. The person who operated the colony’s booth retired before the start of the season.

“We have more produce vendors to try to replace what we’re missing with Rose Valley being gone,” said Thompson. “We’re hoping that our customers come out and support them as much as they did Rose Valley.”

There was also some road construction adjacent to the market’s mall location for much of the season.

The 2019 season will start with indoor markets on April 27 and May 4 at the Estevan Shoppers Mall. Traditionally the markets have opened with four indoor sales, but that number has been reduced to two this year because of the timing of the Good Friday and Easter long weekend.

Indoor sales run from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

The first outdoor market will be May 11, and will be held in the mall’s parking lot every Saturday until the Thanksgiving long weekend in October.

New for this year will be a switch in times for the outdoor markets, from the traditional 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m., to 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

“This was of particular interest for our vendors who have to travel a distance to be at market setup and ready to go for our start time. We’ll try it for a year and see how it goes. Of course it’s always an adjustment for our vendors and our customers as well.”

At next year’s annual general meeting, they will review the time change to find out how it worked for everyone.

Christmas sales will run each Saturday from Nov. 23-Dec. 21, meaning there will be five Saturday sales instead of the traditional four.

A Saturday evening market was also discussed at the annual general meeting. It would be held in conjunction with a community event, when people would already be out and about. Thompson believes this would provide something different for customers and vendors.

“We’re just going to have to wait until we’re getting a little closer to this summer so we can look at what other events are going on, and give that a try,” said Thompson. 

A kids day is scheduled for June 8, with face-painting and refreshments. The customer appreciation day, with gift certificates from vendors, would be Aug. 17.

The market is also looking for people who want to provide activities as a fundraiser for their organization. And they’re also open to charities coming out to be part of the markets.

They made a donation to the Hillcrest School Breakfast Club, and they are moving forward with a bursary for students at the school.

“We’re trying to give back to the community,” said Thompson.

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