THE popular Southern Farmers Market is considering moving to new premises.
Before the Covid-19 lockdown, the market committee was charged $300 a week to host the Sunday market at the Southland Masonic Centre (inside and the car park), Southern Farmers Market site manager Geoff Scott said.
However, from July, the cost could potentially be doubled, he said.
Taking into account the market was also “currently running at a loss”, raising the rent wasn’t a “viable option”, Mr Scott said.
Committee secretary Belinda Astone said although the stallholders were there to make a living, the market was a not-for-profit organisation.
“Being a community-orientated service, it would be nice not to have to pay commercial rates.”
The committee was in discussions with the Masonic Centre’s new owner, who would officially take over the centre in early July, and there were several options given for the market to continue at the centre.
However, the committee was not happy with the potential increase in rent and other conditions which had been suggested, including not allowing the public to use the centre’s toilet, Mr Scott said.
Established in 2006, the market was previously held at Southland Boys’ High School for several years, before relocating to the Scottish Hall in Esk St.
It then moved to the Masonic Centre in Forth St where it had been held for the past four-and-a-half years.
Because of the inside and outside options, the Masonic Centre had been “one of the better” venues, Mr Scott said.
Southlanders flocked to the market each week, with its fresh produce, crafts and food stalls, where many enjoyed a Sunday morning or lunchtime treat.
At its peak, there were 60 stallholders but, on average, there were between 35-40 stallholders, a third of which were food stalls, a third craft stalls and about a third selling fresh produce, depending on the season.
Although stallholders were mainly from Southland, some travelled from as far as Central Otago, especially those selling fruit, Mr Scott said.
The market offered a diversity of produce and goods from local producers including free-range eggs, freshly squeezed juices, organic and non-organic foods, cheeses, meat, vegetables, plants, prepared meals, tasty treats, honey and cupcakes.
Founding member and stallholder representative Jeremy Hawkes said the number of ethnic food stalls had also grown substantially in the past four years.
Among them were Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai and Scottish cuisine.
Since moving to Alert Level 2, the market had been held at the Scottish Hall in Esk St and would continue to be held there for the next three weeks, Mr Scott said.
“After that, we don’t know where we will be,” Mr Hawkes said.
Although the committee was in negotiations with the Masonic Centre owner, they were also keen to explore other options which may better suit its needs, Mr Scott said.
Mr Hawkes said the committee was keen to secure a permanent venue.
“We have moved a number of times already, but would prefer to have a long-term indoor/outdoor venue for a minimum of a year at least. A trial of 12 months would be ideal.”
Mr Scott said the committee had even suggested sharing a venue with another organisation, group or club.
“They might need a venue for one night a week… we only need a venue each Sunday.
“The committee are prepared to look at everything… at any suggestion.”