Markets: Cambridge 7th & Hamilton 8th September

The Hamilton Farmers’ Market was the place to be on September 1st - the first day of the NZ Spring 2013. The sun was out, the sky was blue, winter had been dispensed with, the rugby had been won and it was Fathers Day. Just sitting amongst the throng, enjoying a hot cappuccino and a croissant in the sun whilst soaking up the buzz, was a pleasure in itself. In fact we were a bit short of chairs for people to sit on. Perhaps we could persuade the stallholders to chuck in a few extra folding canvas chairs in the back of their vans to boost the sitting options for customers. At least they are light and easy to handle.

We have a new Market Manger – (welcome Amanda) and I was watching her being trained up under the watchful eye of previous manager Sarah, over the past few weeks and this made me realize the extent of the job she has taken on. So I reckoned it was time to celebrate and appreciate the behind the scenes efforts of those who manage the market and enable it to be as good as it is.

A lot of organising is required to bring the Sonning Carpark to life every Sunday morning starting around 6.30am (still dark in winter) with the Market Manager the checking of the carpark for Saturday night detritis – broken glass, rubbish and other unmentionables which I obviously won’t mention here. Then the market storage container is checked for grafitti and damage, which it seems to attract being in such a public place close to the city centre. After that comes the unrolling of the wooden reel which carries the heavy duty 120 metre extension cord that brings power to the stalls who need it for their expresso machines, freezers, chillers, waffles makers, ice cream makers, hot plates and warming cabinets.
Then the various direction and traffic signs have to be put out along the road side and at the entrance of the market. After that the first of the vendors rolls up and the Market Manager barks orders at them about where they should go. Usually we have our own possies from which we move reluctantly but we understand it is for the greater good especially in winter when the market looks a bit like a bad set of teeth because of missing stalls so we have to snuggle up to each other to create a cosier looking environment. While the stallholders battle with their gazebos, tables, covers, signs and the attractive placement of their saleable itemsthe two Portaloos arrive and need to be offloaded from the trailer and checked that they have sanitiser and toilet paper in situ. If they don’t, someone has to get these, and fast. (It has happened..) . The rookie stallholders have to be directed to their places and the rules explained to them once again. Regular stallholders have to have their small problems / gripes dealt with by the long suffering but patient market manager. The tables and chairs are piled onto a hand cart trailer and pulled from the storage container across the carpark and set up wherever there are spaces . The musicians turn up and have to be sorted out with a shelter gazebo if it is raining and they have to have their amplifiers plugged into the power too. The Market Information Tent is erected and the cash out Eftpos Machine sorted out. The Eftpos girl (Mona) helps out with the heavy duty stuff. Any latecomers or no shows are phoning in their excuses at this stage and the first of the early bird customers start to arrive around 7.30am.
At 8am the show is on the road and the loyal band of 8 o’clock customers descend on the market. These are the experts. They know exactly what they want and where to find it.As stallholders we know exactly what they want too and where possible have it ready for them. The 8 o’clocks are in and out of the market within 20 minutes. No coffee for them. Just the weekly shopping for fresh meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, locally roasted coffee beans, local organic wine, salami, free range eggs, sourdough or 5 grain bread and baked goods and they are off to enjoy the remains of their Sunday morning with a nice breakfast, the Sunday Newspaper and their feet up.

Then there is a short lull and the stallholders themselves take the opportunity to snatch their own coffees and breakfast scones or fritters which are stuffed down quickly before the next onslaught. Then come the more leisurely 9 o’clock customers who enjoy the market for its ambiance, its good coffee and its status as a pleasant meeting place on Sunday mornings. These customers stay longer, they enjoy trying out the tastings on offer and chatting to the vendors about their products. Often these are regular customers too and they bring along visitors or friends who haven’t been before so they are keen that the market shows off the best it can offer and they are proud of the relationship they have built up with the stallholders many of whom know them by name. The customer count builds steadily with the coming and going of vehicles in and out of the carpark rising to a peak around 10.15am. Some polite road rage can ensue and the market manager has to double as a traffic warden from time to time calming the situation and assuring everyone that there are parks available at the back of the carpark.
Then there is a buzz as the news goes around that the council health inspector has turned up for a random check of the stalls. This randomness is a good thing as it keeps hygiene standards exceptionally high at all times assuring customers that their food is protected and safe to consume. Then there’s another buzz as the word goes around that a Japanese film crew have turned up and want to shoot as few quaint New Zealand Farmers’ Market shots or better still that a local All Black has arrived with his gorgeous model girlfriend!We all want to give them some free tasters…
Around 11.00 the market calms down and customers thin out and at 11.30 the bargain hunters turn up and often there are bargains to be had especially if it has been a wet market and there is a lot of produce unsold. ‘Two for the price of one’ or ‘buy two get one free’ type of thing. The customers who come late are keen to bargain and hassle and although that isn’t part of the NZ culture there are times when it suits both buyer and vendor. While the business of the market is carrying on the market manager has to get every stallholder’s signature of attendance and collect the fees for that days trading and give reciepts. She has to ensure that the eftpos is running smoothly and she has to politely tell customers that dogs are not allowed in the market (Health Inspector says so) and redirects them to the Pooch Park when they can be tied up safely.

Finally we have ‘the desperados’ – the 11.55 customers who rush around snapping up whatever is left because they have a children’s party / afternoon tea /sick friend in hospital / roof shout to buy for but they had forgotten about it until the last minute. We have people begging to buy out of the back of the trucks as we pack up! Happy to oblige of course.
And while we stallholders finish packing up and shimmy off down the road back home for lunch and a snooze (as most of us have been up since 5.00am), spare a thought for Amanda the poor old market manager, as she supervises the Portaloos being rolled back onto the trailer to be dropped off at the depot for emptying. Think of her as she rolls up the heavy electric cable, wipes downs the tables and folds up 20 sets of tables and chairs. As she ties off all the bags of accumulated market rubbish, scoops the poop from the Pooch Park, packs the trailer in a very particular way so that it fits the maximum amount of market stuff, trolleys the big signs from the road and into the storage container.As she checks the market area for lost property, broken glass and extraneous rubbish that the naughty stallholders have left behind. Spare a thought for her as she balances the Eftpos (where has it gone wrong?) and finally, when everyone else has gone, as she locks up the power cabinet and the container, gives a final check that all is well and as she drives home exhausted after a full on 8 hours of non stop work. High Five for the Market Manager. We couldn’t do without her! Give her an encouraging smile the next time you see her scurrying around with her clipboard and a worried look on her face. You can’t miss her. She’s the one wearing the jacket with Market Manager written across the back.
Phew, I’m exhausted myself after writing all that.
See you next weekend!
Meg Daly
Celtic Cuisine