FARM 21: Blyth Community Market finds success with move online
BY DENNY SCOTT
The Blyth Community Market moved online for the off-season late last year and has been building a loyal following since then under the guidance of Joan Brady.
Brady, a farm and food consultant with Community Futures Huron helping several farmers’ markets in the area, took on the Blyth Community Market, previously the Blyth Outdoor Market, in its attempt to go online for the winter.
The project, however, is broader than that, she said, as it’s working in a framework that is also used by the Grand Bend and Bayfield farmers’ markets.
Aside from her above experience and titles, Brady is also a vendor, making her an ideal candidate to help the markets find their online followings.
"In May of 2020, we, as vendors of the Grand Bend market and the Bayfield market, had no physical location [due to COVID-19],” she said. “Our hosts were hesitant to allow us to use a space with so many shutdowns [happening]. We decided to pivot to an online pre-order and pick-up model. I had been working on such a platform for Community Futures.”
The program ran all summer and was successful, Brady said, so the two markets decided to continue into the winter. The Blyth market’s vendors were seeking something similar.
By signing on, the Blyth Community Market became part of something bigger, Brady said, as there is synergy in the markets working together.
“We certainly want to have a local focus, and want local producers, especially those initially with the market,” she said. “We can broaden the offering, which is attractive to consumers by making that connection.”
The vendors accessible through the Blyth Community Market online initiative feature a mix of local producers and producers from across Huron County, she said.
The Blyth market’s online presence started just before Christmas and has been building steadily since then, Brady said.
“We don’t have the volume of the Bayfield and Grand Bend markets yet, but we’re trying to get the word out.”
Brady said the most effective way to do that is through satisfied customers, which she said continues to be the goal of the organization.
“We’ve expanded our distribution,” she said. “We’ve always offered delivery, but we also created a pick-up point in Clinton, as there’s a lot of demand there.”
The other pick-up point is the Blyth Christian Reformed Church. Delivery to customers’ doors is available for a small fee, Brady said.
Brady said the number of people using the market has increased steadily since launch, but also the number of customers from outside the area has been growing as well.
In late February, the market had one-third of its orders coming from outside the traditional market’s coverage area, including orders from Brussels, Wingham and Clinton.
The market offers a unique spread of producers, she said, including her own company of Smokey Hollow Farms, which offers fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, flowers and plants.
She said producers cover everything from apples to angus beef and prepared foods to hard cider.
The fact that the Blyth market isn’t a farmers’ market, and therefore isn’t held to the same rules regarding the number of producers, makes it a unique organization, Brady said. That positioning will allow it to grow in the future. She pointed to the Grand Bend and Bayfield markets, which are farmers’ markets and require one primary producer for every artisan producer.
“Because of Blyth’s history of being an artisan market, we’ve been able to waive that idea,” she said. “We can feature some craft vendors because of that.”
The market opens orders on every second Friday and runs through the following Monday at 8 p.m. Products are then delivered to either the drop-off locations (Blyth Christian Reformed Church in Blyth or the Made in Huron Artisan Market in Clinton) or delivered anywhere within fifteen minutes of Blyth.
For more information, contact Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the market online at penfoodnetwork.ca/blyth-community-market/shop#/home