Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market
Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market Sustained by Innovation
When he became manager, business acquaintances speculated that one could not, individually, run a retail venture once a week in downtown Halifax. Kilcup quickly learned the vendors have always understood the need for a co-operative to do that. "It is a very unusual arrangement based on trust and that is why this market is so successful," explains Kilcup.
Saturday is the big day around the Halifax Farmers' Market. With bustling market-goers from near and far, fresh produce, baked treats, floral displays and colourful clothing and jewellery for all ages, the atmosphere is one of a kind.
But what happens on Friday? If you are not a vendor, chances are you do not know how much preparation is involved. Aside from the tireless work by farmers and craftspeople behind the scenes.
"Friday is a pretty intense day, but market day is the very intense day," says Kilcup as he sits at the edge of his seat on a bustling afternoon of preparation and explains the simplicity that has kept the Halifax Farmers' Market alive for so long.
"The way the market works, it is all about face-to-face communication, trust building between customers and vendors. For all people involved it is a very personal kind of space and business which sometimes can be a relief."
Kilcup also speaks fondly about exciting new developments for a bigger, ecologically friendly home for the historical market. He has been instrumental in uniting vendors and customers to make the market's modernization and growth possible.
Today's market is rich with tradition and commitment from vendors and customers alike, a key that has sustained this market for longer than any other in Canada. But the Halifax Farmers' Market, a refreshingly simplistic organization, has always understood innovation, taking steps ahead of the crowd, to sustain one of Nova Scotia's gems. And it is taking one of its biggest steps yet.
Halifax's Seaport Farmers' Market, the new, open concept location, will feature a complete environment-friendly theme and exudes every part of the three words of inspiration for the new plans; local, sustainable and ethical.
The renovated historical Harbour Pier will feature a green, or bio-wall, in place of an air filter or air conditioner, outdoor storefronts, solar-powered lanterns and heat, four rooftop courtyards, including room for community activities such as gardening, and the same honesty, trust and respect vendors and customers expect from the Halifax Farmers' Market. The seaport location will give customers the opportunity to visit every vendor without being overcrowded. Customers will have the space to relax and enjoy the fresh, goody-filled marketplace.
"The new location will be a 'see-through building', you will be able to stand on one side of the building, and see through to the sailboats on the other side," Kilcup says. Environmental thinking aside, the new market plan is downright cool and, of course, adequately and naturally insulated for the winter months.
One might wonder how the arrangements for such a transition can be made by one market manager, but Kilcup assures he is not alone. There is a multitude of support from market-goers and vendors alike. To Kilcup, the answer is simple; it is all about interacting in the market.
"The two- or three-minute standard: a meeting that takes place in the market on Saturday between me and anyone I happen to come across that has an involvement in the market. It's interesting that the projects that we are doing, all the people involved; legal, leasing architectural, any kind of service and business expertise I need comes from market people."
Market customers and vendors cherish, and depend on, the market, and will therefore work together to ensure it is sustained.
"A process that would normally take a day and a half of calling back and forth, taking time to set up meetings and reach decisions, I accomplish this in two to five minutes, all on a Saturday morning. And I could have 10 of those unplanned meetings that get to the heart of an issue immediately, and a plan of action and a move on and that can be accomplished just like that, a snap."
If socializing, shopping, listening to local music and closing business deals can be done in one place on a Saturday morning, imagine the quality of products that keep bringing the faithful customers back each week. Its simple, local produce is the best.
When it comes to fresh Nova Scotia produce, vendors at the Halifax Farmers' Market know how to get the most out of Nova Scotia's plentiful resources.
"Everybody knows who is the best at getting the earliest and the latest. Everybody knows each other's business, that allows them to select an area that they can be best at and they can then target that particular area or skill and they will become the best at that. Everybody does what they are best at and it forms a whole, that gives extended seasons, increased quality and variety."
A common thread woven throughout the Halifax Farmers' Market is a long history of commitment and families.
"History lives and breathes in the traditional market families, and gets transmitted from generation to generation of producers," Kilcup explains. "We have the sense of trust and sharing comradery that comes from the group of vendors that work together."
How the tradition continues is a story in itself.
"On many occasions, a vendor will have a particular skill that evolves around a product or process, and they will share it with another vendor, so that when they go on, the product and skill gets carried on by another vendor in the market and that gets passed on for generations. It is a co-operation that you don't see very often.
"It provides a continuity, and a sense of family and trust, and we talk about trust a lot because that is what the whole market rests on because it is a community of people and the trust that they have established amongst themselves allows them to cooperate on business ventures and share their skills."
Today, with an excess of 200 vendors who own, control and finance the market, this model of independence, interlocked with competitive cooperation is ready to embark on one of the most trendy business initiatives of our time. Taking steps ahead of the crowd, in innovation and efficiency, Canada's oldest market is ready to be deemed the most modern.