With a new season for farmers’ markets ramping up, memberships to Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO) are on the rise with a current total of 183 members province-wide. Opportunities for better market management are available from new programs and resources.
New this year is the Manager Certification program, a professional development course consisting of 12 webinars, developed by FMO and Michelle Wolf, a former market manager herself. No two markets are alike. “That’s the biggest challenge,” says Catherine Clark, executive director of FMO. “(We’re) trying to give them the tools to help them think about what they should be doing.”
Some of the tools include standard-type business practices, such as record keeping and working with a board. “It empowers them to work towards what’s recommended,” says Clark. FMO is now working on a vendor certification program and aims to have it ready in early 2019.
FMO now also offers customers with the assurance that food is produced and sold by a verified farmer through MyPick. Farms are visited by FMO and proven to be primary producers who are selling what’s produced on the farm and are not resellers. “This whole generation of consumers wanting to know where their food is coming from is becoming more of a priority,” Clark says.
The reseller issue is not likely to go away, and Clark says FMO doesn’t feel that all markets should be pure. “Resellers have a place,” says Clark. “Markets do need them.” However, through the MyPick identification, consumers will be able to make their own shopping decisions on vendors they wish to buy from.
Membership to FMO continues to increase. Clark says nine new markets have come onboard this year. Havelock will be opening its first market in June and the Peterborough Regional Farmers’ Market will open in approximately two weeks. Overseeing Havelock’s market is Elmer Buchanan, an ex-Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “He is very vocal about what a farmers’ market should be and it fits with our philosophy,” Clark says.