Focus on future-proofing market

Otago Farmers Market general manager Michele Driscoll began her new role on February 1. PHOTO:...
Otago Farmers Market general manager Michele Driscoll began her new role on February 1. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Ageing farmers are a concern for new Otago Farmers Market general manager Michele Driscoll.

The biggest worry for market staff and board members was vendors retiring and stopping selling produce at the weekly market in Dunedin because they had no succession plan, Ms Driscoll said.

"They’re not going to be here forever, and who is coming up the ranks?"

The board members frequently discussed how the farming sector in the region could be future-proofed to ensure there was a supply of fresh produce on sale at the market.

"We are built on primary produce."

She started in the new role on February 1.

Before starting the new job, Ms Driscoll had been assistant manager of the market for about 18 months.

The assistant position was created as part of a "succession plan" for her to take over the top job when Kate Vercoe departed after more than seven years in the role.

As general manager, Ms Driscoll worked 30 hours a week, an assistant manager worked 13 hours a week and two site assistants worked at the market in summer.

Ms Driscoll was raised on a dairy farm her family sharemilked in Franklin, Pukekohe East.

Before joining the market team, she worked in television production and advertising for about 20 years in Auckland.

The market site at Dunedin Railway Station was "loved" by market staff and board members because it was central, easy to access and had plenty of foot traffic, she said.

"It’s almost in your face — isn’t it?"

However, the impact of the construction of a new hospital a block away "was always on the back of our minds".

Vendors would soon be able to plug in to new electrical ports being installed in the market site.

The plugs — part of a railway station upgrade project — were expected to be ready for use soon.

Ms Driscoll’s plans for the market included some "tweaks" but generally it was "business as usual".

The market was running at "full capacity" with more than 60 vendors.

The vendors come from across the South including Cardrona, the Catlins and Oamaru.

Vendors Waitaki Mushrooms joined the ranks earlier this month and Princes St Butcher & Kitchen would feature soon.

"There is always something new and fresh happening."

The market had been used as a "stepping stone" to a bigger enterprise by some vendors, such as Beam Me Up Bagels.

Vendors had to sell food, preferably healthy, made in the South, which differed from that sold by existing vendors.

"It’s all very considered ... We are an authentic farmers’ market."

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