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Local farmers markets working together

AMHERST – There are at least nine farmers markets operating locally, and, for the second straight year, they are working together.

Representatives from eight Cumberland County farmers markets and another from Westmorland County gathered recently for the second annual Cumberland Farmers Market Coordinators Gathering in Amherst. Among those taking part were (from left) Jody Zinner of the Cumberland Food Action Network, Keltie Butler from Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative, Su Morin, community food coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, and Nadine Findlay, co-coordinator of the Parrsboro Farmers Market.

Representatives from the markets gathered for the recent second annual Cumberland Farmers Market Coordinators Gathering in Amherst.

Bringing coordinators together to share common concerns, successes and challenges is beneficial in many ways, according to Su Morin, community food coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre.

“For many, it was the first time they met, and so several attendees noted the networking opportunities that the event provided,” said Morin. “Newer markets can learn from the experience of those markets that have been around longer, preventing a ‘re-inventing of the wheel’.”

About 15 people were involved in the meeting, which is unique to Cumberland County, according to Morin, who said the gathering provides a forum for the county’s many markets to present a unified voice.

A recent economic impact study conducted by Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative (FMNS) showed that the economic spinoffs to communities from farmers markets were plenty. For example, the Pugwash Farmers Market was shown to have pumped $36,260 into the local economy in just one market day.

Other benefits from farmers markets include increased income security for local farmers and artisans, who often look to these markets as an avenue for diversifying their income base, according to Morin.

“Farmers' markets help keep money in our area and are therefore, playing an important role in revitalizing our rural communities,” she said.

The steady growth of new markets in Cumberland County over the past decade has been encouraging news to Keltie Butler, executive director of FMNS, a provincial co-op organization promoting farmers markets throughout Nova Scotia.

Butler has seen a rise in farmers markets and market-based businesses across the province, a hopeful sign she believes for not only the local food movement and food producers, but for the economic health of the region.

“Markets are a great way of incubating local businesses, a starting point for many local businesses to ‘get their feet wet’ in a low-risk, low cost environment,” said Butler.

The FMNS provides market-based businesses, as well as staff and volunteers, with training opportunities and skill enhancement as well – an offering that has earned the organization recognition across Canada.

Cumberland County boasts eight farmers markets, ranging in size from under 10 vendors to over 40.  These markets vary in types of vendors, length of season, governance structures and much more.  Most are volunteer-run with one local market having a part-time paid coordinator.

For a list of market locations and dates of operation, please refer to the Cumberland Food Action Network website at:  However, please note that this guide will still need to be updated for the 2015 growing season, likely sometime in May.

Twitter: @ADNandrew

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