14/12/2015 - 06:00

Guidelines review for school markets

14/12/2015 - 06:00

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The Department of Education is advising state schools against establishing new farmers’ markets on their grounds amid growing demand for the popular weekend attractions.

GOOD GIG: Subiaco Farmers’ Market manager Anna Cappelletta and chair Greg Lynch say the market is thriving.

The Department of Education is advising state schools against establishing new farmers’ markets on their grounds amid growing demand for the popular weekend attractions.

The complex nature of operating commercial endeavours on state land used primarily for education purposes has sparked a review by the department into its guidelines around the community use of school facilities.

Department of Education executive director infrastructure, John Fischer, told Business News the department was warning schools not to enter into any new or extended arrangements with farmers’ markets until new procedures were released in the first half of next year.

Paul Ashbolt, who founded Leederville Farmers’ Market before closing it about four months ago, said market operators who ran their business as a purely commercial enterprise, as he did, struggled to compete with farmers’ markets that operated at schools.

Mr Ashbolt said while schools attracted volunteers and pro-bono services, his markets had to pay market prices for all of its expenses, including the three staff who worked at the Leederville market during the year it operated.

Subiaco Farmers’ Market committee member and chair of the Subiaco Primary School P&C Association, Greg Lynch, told Business News the market had thrived since its launch in 2009.

Mr Lynch said the market had paid a manager and two casuals, and gave $50,000 to the school this year, $30,000 of which was part of rental agreements negotiated with the Department of Education.

He said the market had grown from 35 stalls six years ago to 60 stalls now, providing a total of $150,000 to the school in that time.

Through recently introduced efficiencies and a change in market management, Mr Lynch said the Subiaco market was expecting to give between $60,000 and $70,000 to the school next year.

Michael Ebert, who volunteers at Mt Claremont Primary School’s farmers’ market, said he did not want to reveal how much money the school made from the market.

However, he said proceeds from the market had allowed the school to pay for a physical education teacher and make various improvements it otherwise couldn’t afford to do.

Australian Farmers’ Markets Association chair of the WA branch, Jenny Payet, told Business News the growing popularity of farmers’ markets had led to concerns about density, with markets operating in close proximity to each other threatening to cannibalise sales.

She said the association advised markets to set up at least 30 minutes’ drive apart.

The association also encourages farmers’ markets to use its model rules to ensure they mainly sold local produce from genuine growers, to set them apart from markets that offered products such as crafts and jewellery.

Mr Ashbolt said there weren’t sufficient producers to support all the markets that had emerged in recent times.

“The type of people that farmers’ markets usually attract are low-level producers who are on small farms that are diversified, and there’s not that many of them around,” he said.

“There are certainly not enough around to cover all the markets at the moment.”

Mr Ashbolt said while he had closed the Leederville Farmers’ Market primarily due to the harsh conditions placed on him by the owners of the location, trading so close to the CBD was a challenge regardless because of competing events.

“The inner-city market scene, not only markets, but festivals and just generally entertainment on the weekend is extremely crowded,” he said.

Mr Ashbolt said the Leederville Farmers’ Market had experienced a 30 per cent drop in revenue after it was required to stop selling beverages such as coffee by a nearby cafe owner who had a say in the markets’ leasing arrangements.

He said he gave up trying to revive the Leederville operation when this restrictive condition was also part of negotiations to reopen the market at a different venue, owned by the City of Vincent.

Mr Ashbolt, who also runs the Eden Beach farmers market with support from developer Stockland, is now in negotiations with an unnamed local government to open another farmers’ market, but said he would not proceed unless all the conditions were right.

“Nobody makes a lot of money out of these markets,” he said.

“I do it because I’m passionate about what it stands for and the ethos and philosophy behind farmers’ market.”

 

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