I’m always scanning the city for new and emerging local food initiatives and lately I’ve been noticing a flurry of direct marketing activities popping up everywhere. So what is Direct Marketing anyway?! In the context of local food systems, this refers to models of distribution where producers (farmers, fishers, etc.) sell their goods directly to consumers, without large grocery stores or retailers acting as the “middle-men”. This can be beneficial for many reasons, including that producers are better able to ensure a fair price for their products and also hear from eaters about what they like; while eaters are able to ask questions and get know their food a little better- where it comes from and how it’s produced.
In more general terms, direct marketing is one of the ways to strengthen the connection between our agricultural and fishing communities, and urban markets. That’s not to say it doesn’t come with its fair share of challenges, but it is certainly one approach that is helping to support our local food system. So let’s get into specifics:
Nova Scotia is home to a huge variety of markets that exist across the province. They vary in both size and diversity but if you’re looking for a farmer’s market your area, a great place to start is Farmers Market Nova Scotia. And then there are “pop-up” markets, which appear to be popping up more and more. These can be anywhere from one to several vendors setting up market stands, often on the grounds of local businesses, schools, or organizations, but also in other “unsuspecting” places. Sometimes they’re sporadic and come and go in a flash, and other times they set up shop at regular days and times throughout the season. I’ve seen a few of these in Halifax including pop ups at Local Source Market (Wednesdays at 2pm-6pm, June-October), and at the corners of Almon and Agricola (Wednesday afternoons).
This is a system through which customers sign up for a share in the farm at the beginning of the season, and receive a weekly (generally) basket of food from the farm. Boxes vary depending on the season. While most CSAs in Nova Scotia are for vegetables and fruit, there are some people doing meat, fish, bread and full meal CSAs. For a list of CSAs that have been running across Nova Scotia 2013, go here.
I decided this one need it’s own heading, as it’s THAT cool, and it’s not to long ago (2009) that Nova Scotia became the proud province of Atlantic Canada’s first Community Supported Fishery- Off the Hook. Community Supported Fisheries are modeled after CSAs and help make sure that independent, small-scale fishing families can continue to pursue their livelihoods in an industry rapidly becoming dominated by large-scale, corporate players. Ah-mazing!
Other Direct Market Programs
A much smaller proportion of direct marketing activities are options such as pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands and stores, and opportunities for gleaning- where consumers are invited to harvest crops that are left in fields, usually after harvest.
And last but not least, although perhaps one step removed from the direct marketing activities named above (but no less important), are the plethora of local food businesses that are working hard to build strong relationships with producers and bring more local food to urban eaters. There are of course too many to name here, but some examples include Local Source Market in the North end, and local food delivery services such as Home Grown Organics and Farm to Door Delivery, a local food component of a newly established grocery delivery service.
Do have or know about a direct marketing initiative that’s happening in your community? If so, we’d like to hear from you! In an effort to connect more eaters to producers, we’re keeping track of what’s happening in communities across HRM and beyond. If you’ve got something to share, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org