Minto Market year in review

With a year’s experience behind them, members of the Minto Farmers As­sociation have demonstrated that downtown Clifford was the little market that could.

On Feb. 17, Belinda Wick-Graham offered Minto councillors a review of the association.

She provided images of the original site as compared to a site full of vendors.

Wick-Graham also provided  a look at plans for 2010.

“As you all know it was a long time in coming,” she said. “It was identified in the strategic plan of 2005. Planning started in 2007, and it finally happened in 2009.”

She thanked Wesley Bates and Juanita Wilkins for use of the site.

“Without them coming forward, we would not have had a nice spot in downtown Clif­ford.”

In the agreement with them, the town was responsible for levelling the lot and pathway.

There were also plans for a fence, however “it was not supposed to look as nice as it does right now.” She explained that “Wes and Juanita wanted to make sure there was a nice fence on the property, and they stepped up with additional money.”

Wick-Graham said there were some misconceptions the town paid for this fancy fence.

“That was not the case, and I wanted to clear that up.”

“It’s a nice fence that they’ve paid for,” said councillor Rick Hembly.

Wick-Graham mentioned the various marketing materials, as she thanked the Community Heart Health Network which sponsored ad­vertising for the market.

“We had to start from scratch, so there was all new signs, ads in the Newspapers, brochures.” The market opened on June 5, and there were 360 visitors in a four-hour period.

She said, “In four months, our vendors had over $19,380 in sales.” She noted during the last few weeks of the season, it rained, so there were not as many people or vendors. On average, there were 11 vendors a week; sometimes there were 14.

“It was a great start, and there are a few more people interested for this year’s market,” she said.

“We had special events at the market every month, in­cluding a strawberry social, a corn roast and the Zuccinni 500. We did all kinds of special events and that really added to the market. The vendors offered a wide variety of products, baked goods, plants, crafts, produce, honey, gluten-free baking, smoked trout – you name it, we had it pretty much.”

Market impact

Wick-Graham said one reason the market was located downtown was to benefit local businesses. At a meeting, local owners were asked if they felt the market helped.

“All of them felt the market benefitted the downtown.”

As for quality of life for residents, only one person said it was not beneficial.

“That person must have been from Mildmay,” quipped Hembly.

Wick-Graham said, “Most people said it brought more peo­ple downtown; it was great to get fresh produce.”

The market provided fund­raising opportunities for local community groups.

Some of those were:

– Clifford’s downtown revitalization committee;

– Minto Arts Council;

– Clifford Historical Society;

– Clifford Horticultural Society;

– Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team; and the

– Minto Chamber of Commerce.

She noted there were additional opportunities for vendors including partnerships that allowed some to take part in the Outdoor Farm Show and the Royal Winter Fair.

“It was great exposure for these businesses in our community, and they never would have had a chance without the partnership with Rural Guelph.”

She added the Minto Mar­ket also served as a business incubator for Wilkins and her gluten-free baking. “I was told the other day, she’d just shipped $300 worth of product to Toronto, and there are groups all over the place wanting her product. It’s another success story, and hopefully, we can help her build her business.”

She said the market association thanked the town for it’s efforts. “It was a long time coming, and it was very successful.”

This year’s market opens June 4, and the plan is to stick with Fridays, from 3 to 7pm.

“It seemed to work well for us, and allowed vendors to participate in other markets on Saturdays. We’re hoping for bigger and better things.”

Deputy-mayor Judy Dirk­sen is the association president. She thanked Wick-Graham for her work with the market.

“It was a really big success. If you think about it, we easily had more 100 people most market days in the four hour period,” Dirksen said. “I think it’s fair to say there’s no business in Clifford that would have more than 100 people going through on a Friday afternoon.

Dirksen said one of the first things to be looked at is the possibility of expanding, with an additional market being es­tablished in Palmerston.

“It might not be on Friday afternoon, but we’ll look into it and how we can make it work.”

“The commaraderie at the market is phenomenal (helping each other out),” she said. “One of the big challenges is that we don’t have that much money to promote the market.”