Marlborough Farmers Market Growing Locally

May 2006
The Marlborough Farmers Market started five years ago, and has grown to the point where it is very popular with both locals and tourists alike. The motivation for sellers is that it is a low-cost, organised and sociable way to sell their products, allows them to talk directly with buyers and get feedback and ideas for new products. For buyers they know that the food is local, fresh, and they can get to know and develop a personal relationship with the producers.

For the local district the advantages are reducing transport costs (food miles) and maintaining diversity, encouraging the local production of a wide range of fruits, vegetables and meats in areas where one crop is in danger of taking over completely e.g. grapes in Marlborough.

Trade & Enterprise also sees Farmers Markets as an incubator for new food crops and products that could eventually make their way into national and then export markets. There are a number of instances of that happening.

Premium Game Ltd

Premium Game Ltd has been going about 10 years. Originally it was an idea dreamed up by four hunters who were always being approached by people wanting to buy wild game, but selling uninspected meat is illegal.

We even had restaurant approach us, so we thought we would set up a business supplying local markets legally. It was just an extension of our hobby, making it into a living, says Allan Spencer, managing director.

We built the packhouse from scratch, and designed to meet all the strict MAF requirements. Everybody financially involved with the place is a hunter, and we also buy from other hunters and helicopter operators.

The business is different to normal meat plants where livestock are killed on the premises. All hunters have to sit exams and be licensed by MAF, and they must record the location of each animal they kill.

Helicopters have a GPS system and press the button every time they shoot a deer so we know exactly where it was shot, says Allan.

This is to prevent poaching, and also to avoid taking animals from areas where poison has been laid. We have about 20 hunters now and they have been with us many years. Most of them are part-time and many are farmers.

The company supplies a large number of outlets throughout New Zealand including fresh meat markets and many upmarket restaurants, but no exports.

In a typical week they might process 20 deer, 20 pigs, 12 goats, 100 rabbits and 100 hares. Wallaby, Thar, and possum are also available. Hunters generally operate at the weekend, and must deliver their kill, gutted but with lungs, liver and heart inside and head on, to the factory chiller within 10 hours of slaughter.

Carcasses are inspected by MAF, skinned and trimmed, then re-inspected. If they pass inspection they go through to the edible room where they are cut and vacuum packaged in premises that are up to export standard, says Allan.

The company also makes a range of smallgoods including salamis, sausages, venison and bacon patties, and the very popular wild pork bacon. Five people are employed in the factory.

Allan was approached by the organiser of the Marlborough Farmers Market to set up a stand, and it has been successful in advertising their existence and the range of products they offer.

There are also lots of old local hunters and people whose granddads used to shoot rabbits for them, and now they can buy what they want all wrapped up and ready to cook, he says.

Its unbelievable how many hares we sell, largely because of all the European chefs that have arrived with different ideas. It gives the restaurant trade something new to try.

We haven't had a single bad comment about our products. We had wine and food society people from Wellington who wanted to have a look through the factory and I thought they wouldnt last 10 minutes would all blood and guts around, but in fact we had a bit of a problem getting them out of the door they were so interested in the place.

Nutt Ranch


The property is 8ha, with about 5ha in an orchard comprising 3000 chestnut trees aged between 5 and 10 years. The trees start bearing at year three but not at a commercial rate until about the fourth year.

This year Dave and Bev Null are hoping for about 2 tonnes of nuts from their trees, and will probably buy in about a further 1.5 tonnes from other local growers.

We have about 13 different products that we make ourselves in our commercial kitchen, and we package everything we prepare, says Dave.

That includes fresh natural nuts out of the shell we don't sell any nuts in the shell as well as roasted, salted and spicy hazelnuts.

Other products include:

dry roasted hazelnuts

hazelnut oil

hazelnut flour

hazelnut paste

two candied hazelnuts, orange and apple/cinnamon

hazelnut dukha

Our marketing philosophy is to sell direct from the property here to hotels, restaurants, small specialty shops, and we sell internationally through Internet website, says Dave.

The Marlborough Farmers Market is one of our bigger outlets, we have been going there for about five years, and it is actually there that we put together all of our marketing strategy.

We started out with only about two products, and then as customers commented we changed products and added new ones, it has been our training base, like a test market.

Initially we went along to the Market because it seemed easier than us doing all our own marketing because at that time we were both working full-time off the farm. Now we both work full-time on the farm and the orchard.

Because it is well organised the Farmers Market is like having our own little shop but without all the overheads. A wide range of people pass by and at least see what we have to offer, whereas if we were just in a store not everybody would see our products.

Lots of people on holiday here, some from substantial companies, have subsequently bought wholesale from us.

One of the really neat things about the Market is that we get to be around people who are exactly like we are, who don't have regular jobs, who are making a living or having a go at making a living. Most are pretty adventurous, having a go at something that most people wouldn't dare try, and being reasonably successful. It gets us of the farm once a week which is pretty important, and we get to meet many different kinds of people, and the money is not bad. I can't think of any disadvantages except perhaps being outside when it rains.

Marlborough Farmers Market 9am 12 noon

A & P Park, Maxwell Rd, Blenheim

The Market has been going five years, runs from November through May and closes over winter. It was got under way by a very committed group of people from all facets of food production and processing, including Chris Fortune who is a chef by trade.

Originally Destination Marlborough, our regional marketing body, hosted a workshop to discuss whether a farmers market would benefit Marlborough, and from that we formed a committee of like-minded people and we gave ourselves four months as a start-up period, says Chris.

It has been a phenomenal success, grown every year, and is very well supported by locals who want to buy local products. They also bring their visitors in and we have many tourists coming through.

The concept is very simple it has to be local produce, it has to be sold by the person who is producing it, and it has to be an edible product, so no bananas and no crafts, explains Chris.

The producer gets to tell the customer where and how the product has been grown, the best way to prepare it, and that sort of direct interaction is a great advantage. There are no wholesalers at farmers markets; you deal directly with the person who has produced the goods. You can guarantee that everything is fresh having been picked the day before or that morning, he says.

We started by looking at what Australia was doing, and Hawke's Bay started up their market the year before us, so we essentially adopted the same rules. Hawke's Bay and Marlborough have just finished setting up a national association, the Farmers Market NZ Inc., and Trade & Enterprise is helping fund it. Our goal is to encourage as many regions as possible to establish their own farmers markets using the same principles.

Trade & Enterprise see farmers markets as an incubator for regional food products and they put considerable emphasis on helping producers and processors to establish export markets and also to support diversity within each region.

What is happening around Marlborough and a lot of other regions like the Hawke's Bay is that grapes are taking over as the major land use, and this makes land very expensive and it is no longer economical to grow cherries, cabbages, potatoes, carrots and asparagus etc. A farmers market is about encouraging diversity and avoiding monoculture, says organic grower Jenni Crum.

People have to get used to the idea that you buy, say, local asparagus for only six weeks, but it is very fresh and has travelled only a short distance. Asparagus may be available in the supermarkets for six months, but it is imported and has travelled thousands of kilometres, and who knows how it has been treated to make it last. People have lost the sense of seasonality.

One of the biggest successes at the Marlborough Market is its Farmers Market kitchen, which Chris set up.

For the first two years I and another chef volunteered our time. Now it completely pays for itself and it is the biggest income earner at the market, with all the money that is raised goes back into the running of the market, says Chris.

We employ four chefs now, and most Sundays they sell about 250 breakfasts an hour and a quarter, which is faster than you can get through a fast food chain.

The trick in a farmers market is to open for the shortest amount of time possible, so most markets run for three or four hours maximum, and you are educating people to come and buy within that time frame. We don't want to be open all day, it's a case of keeping the energy levels high for the stallholders, and then they have the rest of the day to do what they like.

For more information on the Marlborough Farmers Market see

Farmers Markets NZ Inc

The national body is holding its first conference on 16-18 June in the Hawkes Bay, featuring international and local speakers, and market operators from around the country sharing their knowledge and experience. Details on