What about farmers’ markets?

The concept of a farmers’ market is probably the oldest version of agricultural marketing we know and remains a popular choice for many all over the world.

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It’s grounded in a quaint and romantic notion, one where the farmer’s on hand, peddling his products, appropriately attired in straw hat and faded denims held up by braces. This aside, at a proper farmer’s market you’ll find an enticing array of foodstuff, such as jam, boerewors, farm butter, fresh fruit and veggies, biltong and much more. When these products are genuine and have been brought to town in the early hours of Saturday morning direct from the farm, you have a winning formula.

I love the whole idea, not only for the enticing array of delicious goodies on offer but for the atmosphere and friendliness of the farmers. Rows of stalls or bakkies groaning under their offerings, chattering voices and happy laughter complemented by boeremusiek or country-and-western (can you really have any other kind of music at an occasion such as this?)

– it all adds up to a truly unique experience, emblazoned with a South African flavour you won’t find elsewhere. Then we come back to reality in the form of commercialism. It takes money to stage a farmers’ market and the organisers need to see a return on their investment. In many cases this has meant casting the net wider to catch other, non-farming stall holders.

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But it’s hard to find that delicate balance between a genuine farmers’ market, a flea market and a ‘free-for-all market’. Bringing in others to create a flea market can add value to the mix, but when you have peddlers offering items that don’t complement that mix, you end up with a soulless ‘make money above all else’ market.

The right mix

Modern farmers don’t always produce the goodies their grandparents did, so finding the right ones is a challenge on its own. But they are there and if they can be enticed to come to town on a Saturday morning to peddle their products, the farmer’s market concept will flourish.