Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Bite me! Or: growing pains at the Nakusp Farmers Market

Originally posted to Multiply June 5 2011

The Nakusp Farmers' Market is  becoming the victim of its own success. Farmers markets are big these days, both with the public and with vendors. What happens when something whose charm is partly that it is small and informal starts growing? It may be forced to become more organized and lose some of its charm in the process.

Compared to most other markets we have been an easy-going freewheeling bunch.  Alas, gone are the days when a vendor could just show up and have a choice of places to set up. What it boils down to now is that we have more potential vendors than we have spots.

Some of it works itself out. For instance some vendors only come at the beginning of the season to sell bedding plants. They are gone by the time others want to take advantage of the tourist season. But if everyone shows up at the same time we have a problem.
For years Ray and Lynn Robson did a fabulous job as market managers. Ray is working in Alberta now. Do we ever miss him!
Meanwhile long-standing marketer Colette and yours truly are trying to hold it together.  Not because we are power-hungry control freaks but because we love the market and the job needs to be done. It is not easy.

Yesterday I lost it for a moment. Colette was away so I had to be IT.
One regular had accidentally set up too far in one direction, which left less room in that section, which meant a spot we thought was available wasn't.  An old regular showed up unexpectedly. There would have been room for him, just not in his old space, but he did not wait. I had forgotten we had promised a certain spot to a new couple and I had totally forgotten about another new small vendor. I was afraid a certain local artist who has used the market for years would show up. She had said she'd start coming again in June, but when? Did we make it clear enough to her that she now had to call first?

This is all going on more or less at the same time. My stress level is way up and my blood sugar way down. And while we are trying to get everyone settled the buskers cheerfully plonk themselves down in a prime location, one that potentially had room for a tent if that was needed.  When I called them on it the answer was: "But this is our spot!" They were there last week.

At which point I did not explain nicely and politely, as I would have done had this happened an hour earlier. Reader, I am afraid I barked. "You're buskers, you don't have a spot!".  Dismayed body language. And a friend of theirs asks: "Who makes these decisions anyway?" To which I replied: "I DO. BITE ME."

I did go over a bit later to apologize, but while I regret the tone, I stand by the action. Fortunately the veteran manager of the New Denver market allowed me to pick her brains this morning. I look forward to working with Colette to implement some of her strategies.

Later I looked up the astrology. Mars was almost exactly on my Ascendant.  So that's what it feels like to be an Aries!
Post script. Just to have a record for myself.

The writing above contains wording I had created for a potential Letter to the Editor of our local papers. I also wrote a note to the marketers. It all took a few hours. On Thursday I met with C. to measure the market location, and we went over it. 

The mentor from the other town happened to come by and gave her input. She was so right. I had put things in a negative way that could just as easily be portrayed as positive. So I went home and re-wrote, just for internal use. The result was the following. It looks so smooth and effortless, but hours of thoughtful editing and others' input went into it. Time that should have been spent outdoors....

Dear fellow marketeers,

We all want to see shoppers, visitors and vendors alike continuing to enjoy the same friendly market that we have built up over the years.

We are facing some changes and challenges. In the spirit of "It's a tough job, but someone has to do it" Colette and Ien have taken on management of the market on short notice and without training. We have been flying by the seat of our pants and making some mistakes. 

Like other markets ours started small and casual, and then blossomed into a community event that many people want to be part of. An influx of potential new vendors is now presenting some issues. 

Our location in the heart of town next to an ATM is perfect, but limited. This is not a bad thing. A market should reflect the size of the town. Not every weekend is Music Fest.

Some of it works itself out. But when everyone showed up at the same time we already had a problem. The bottom line is that we have more potential vendors than we have available space. We cannot possibly accommodate everybody all the time.

In order to keep the peace and maintain a smooth flow we must now work with reserved bookings. The easy-going days when one could just show up are gone. This is the price we pay for being a success!

To all new vendors:

We are truly sorry, but we have made some promises that we cannot keep. We should have told every new person this: “The market is as good as full. We will put your name on the waiting list and will let you know when and where we can fit you in.”

Any promises about permanent spots made the first three weeks are voided. We are starting over with a map that shows a clear picture week by week. You may have to put up with being moved around, or rotate with other new vendors.

Over the years we have built a precious place of cooperation and friendly energy that is drawing people every Saturday. Please work with us to maintain that energy as we face the daunting task of puzzling it all out, and let's make it a great summer.

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