Farmers’ Market Week (3-10 August) is the only event of its kind in Canada. The festivities highlight the wonderful fresh food, artisan products and local crafts available at more than 40 markets province-wide. Rustik Magazine has teamed up with Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia to profile some of the vendors and producers that make up Nova Scotia’s vibrant markets.
1) What is your local farmers’ market and what do you most love about it?
The Wolfville Farmers’ Market has been an important part of our business since we started in 1996. It has given us the chance to be part of this vital food movement that is happening in Nova Scotia. The direct contact with our customers has also given us the opportunity to get inspiration for new products and feedback for current products. We have also taken the opportunity to introduce our producers from around the world to farmers in Nova Scotia.
2) What products do you sell and why?
We sell coffee, chocolate, sugar and tea at the market. Our products are all fair trade and organic and fit well with the local products that are being sold, as these can’t be grown here. The needs of local producers are very similar to those we work with around the world and so our story resonates with the customers and farmers at the market. Relationships are very important to our business and the making of the drinks gives us a chance to develop relationships with our customers and cater to their needs.
3) How did you get into your line of work? Any advice for someone just starting out?
By listening to what people were looking for. There was a lot of information about the exploitation of producers in third world countries and how they were organizing to try and better their future. We couldn’t go to their countries to help but thought about what we could do here. After visiting some producers it seemed what they were looking for was people to treat them fairly and to develop markets for them. We formed as a co-op and we were off. By listening to the marketplace we very quickly had customers responding well to what we were doing.
Advice: Find those people in your life that you trust to tell you the truth and listen to them. Spend lots of time on the business plan and seek out professionals to advise you. You can’t be expected as a new business owner to know everything. Talk to others in business… I found that people gave very generously to me when we were starting out.
4) Does your product have a special personal/traditional/cultural meaning to you?
Yes, because coffee is about relationships. At Just Us! we have worked hard to develop relationships with producers around the world through our commitment to travel to them and have them visit us. In our coffeehouses, we have worked hard to create safe spaces where people feel welcomed to spend time with a friend or just be quiet.
5) What are your ideas for future pieces and artisanal works?
We are working closely with tea producers to expand our line of tea. Tea is such a great product for our health and these organic teas taste amazing. Again listening to what people are looking for has brought us to this decision.
Through our experience at the market we have also been listening to farmers and their struggles to build a local market. We have just opened the Centre for Small Farms to hopefully be a catalyst for these types of conversations with farmers, customers, businesses, etc.