James Bay Market: What Makes a Market Vendor?
By Jessica Duncan
There are two sides to every booth at the farmers’ market. There are the vendors and the customers. Both are equally important for a community to evolve. James Bay Community Market is off to a wonderful start with more than seventy vendors signed up for the 2018 market season and a whole lot of happy customers.
What does it take to become a vendor at a farmers’ market? I’m not talking about finding the application online, completing it, losing it somewhere in the ethers, completing it again, and sending it off to the market committee. I’m talking about what piece of the human psyche inspires someone to spend huge chunks of one’s life creating things and selling them to the public.
It starts with a creative interest. Over time, as you perfect your skills, the interest develops into a passion, maybe even an obsession. Whether you are throwing pots or soldering silver, baking bread or growing vegetables, knitting, crocheting or sewing, painting pictures or snapping photos, you eventually find yourself buried in the fruits of your labour. You share your creations with your family and friends, and their friends. Everyone agrees you’ve got a talent. You’re a genius. “You should be selling this stuff!” they exclaim. Et voila! The seed is planted, and there’s no turning back. That one enthusiastic statement turns your hobby into an entrepreneurial venture.
But it takes more than passion and talent to become a market vendor. Taking that next step requires vision, planning and a willingness to take risks. Making or growing beautiful or delicious wares is one thing. Having what it takes to sell them is a whole other ball game. Vendors need to be able to share their passion with members of the public. Vendors need to be able to put a price on their creations and then convince the customer that it is worthy of their money. Vendors need to also be able to withstand the inevitable criticism that is occasionally thrown at them. Vendors need to be so committed to selling their wares that, after spending their weekdays producing, rain or shine, they schlep everything to the market, hoping to head home with a lighter load.
The 2018 season of the James Bay Market started on May 5. The grassy corner of Superior and Menzies was once again transformed into a lively gathering place full of creative risk takers and consumers who are passionate about supporting local producers. Many of the vendors are ‘old-timers’ who slipped right back into their market skin with their familiar products and displays, happily reuniting with loyal customers. And there were some new faces who have chosen to spend this summer sharing their creations with the James Bay community.
I had the chance to speak with Heidi from Uncouth Chocolate, Jim, our latest photographer, Heather from Clockwork Kombucha, and Dxn (pronounced Don) from Fawn Lily Community Foods. Each of these new vendors has a unique story to share with you. Heidi has passionately studied chocolate for the past ten years, and, under the mentorship of Victoria’s own chocolate guru David Mincey, has developed her own pure and delicious brand. And, if we’re talking passion, be sure to ask Jim at Jim Auzin’s Photography about his beautiful photos taken while scuba diving. Jim is an incredibly knowledgeable naturalist who loves all things oceanic.
They say that entrepreneurs create new items to solve problems. The problem that Heather and her husband are tackling with their Clockwork Kombucha is sweetness. Using tea from local Westholme Tea Farm, they have created a kombucha that features the flavour of the teas while reducing the sweetness one finds in most commercial kombuchas.
Perhaps our most innovative new vendor this season is Fawn Lily Community Foods. While there’s nothing unusually innovative about their delicious 100% sourdough baking, the fact that they are not putting a price on their products is truly unusual. The customer can pay anywhere from .50 cents to $5.00 depending on their own financial capabilities. Dxn explained that they are trying to create a place where good food is not economically restrictive. A sign posted on their tent says, “The hope is that folks will pay an amount that reflects their own financial situation. Paying an amount on the higher side of the scale will help make it possible for this business to continue to operate and for others to be able to access the products at a rate they are able to afford.”
Victoria is a city known for entrepreneurs, and the James Bay Market is fortunate to have more than 70 of these creative risk-takers who have committed to spending their summer sharing their talents with the community. Of course, these vendors, old and new, are an integral part of the market, but of equal importance are those of you who make shopping at the James Bay Market a part of your summer tradition. So, mark Saturday in your calendar from now until the end of September, and come meet with the vendors on the other side of the table.