A draft report on the ANU Farmers Market, prepared by Nick Blood, ANUSA Environment Officer, Feb 24, 2019.
On February 22nd, the Friday of O-Week, ANU hosted its first ever Farmers Market. The event was well attended, with around 800 registrations pre-event, and approximately 1,000+ students, staff and Canberrans coming to visit on the day. 26 stalls participated, including businesses and community NGOs providing educational resources. A wide variety of products were available on the day including huge amounts of fresh produce – almost all of which was organic, biodynamic, or locally-sourced. Other products available included ready-made food, apparel, jewellery, plants, preserves, and much more. Businesses also included a handful of student clubs and enterprises, many of whom were experiencing their first ever market, and reported it as a success.
The event was a collaborative project between ANUSA staff, ANUSA student representatives (particularly the O-Week organising team), the ANU Environment Collective, The Food Co-Op, and Slow Food Canberra. The project was created and led by ANU student Myra Escobedo.
First and foremost, to promote sustainability. In this context, sustainability is achieved in a range of specific ways.
Additionally, we want the markets to benefit ANU and the ANU community by:
Because the Farmers Market was run during O-Week many costs were covered by ANUSA. Additionally, all the work involved in organising it was done on a volunteer basis. These factors make it difficult to create an accurate estimate of the total costs to run this event. It may be possible to do a cost review with some retrospective accounting, to arrive at a more exact estimate.
Various factors would affect the cost of future markets and our ability to run them regularly:
Volunteer vs. Paid work: Relying on students and other volunteers lowers costs but risks the long-term viability of the project by depending on free labour that may not always be available. Conversely, paid work increases the financial costs but helps to ensure there is always some ownership and accountability when it comes to organising the event. Perhaps we can split the difference, and use a hybrid model that provides pay for key work, while still utilising volunteers?
O-Week and Bush Week vs. More regularly: Running the markets during O-Week
and Bush Week would mean they are infrequent, but able to benefit from
increased campus traffic during these times and arguably able to receive more support
from ANU organisations hosting their own events during that time. Running them more
regularly – for example, monthly – would require more commitment and management,
which could mean we need paid staff.
With some planning, commitment and collaboration I believe it’s possible to establish a Farmers Market on campus as a regular event. The following options lay out just a few of the many ways to achieve this.
The Postgraduate Students association (PARSA) offers a grant scheme available to students and groups. The Farmers Market achieves aligns perfectly with the goals of the SEEF program and would be competitive on that basis. As a group the Environment Collective can apply for up to $5,000 in funding. Although we don’t know costs for certain right now, this is likely enough to fund the markets multiple times a year. Since SEEF projects cannot make a profit all stallholder fees (and any other profits) would be re-invested into the Sustainable Food Guide, either by providing printed copies for distribution at the Market and/or paying for content developers and designers to improve and update it. The beauty of this model is that SEEF ultimately ends up funding two projects, one directly, one indirectly. SEEF funds the Markets, and the Markets fund the Sustainable Food Guide. Both projects align with SEEF, and both help promote sustainability on campus and beyond.
My understanding is that when it comes to assessing grant applications, established groups with extant funding like us are given less priority. Additionally, recurring projects (applications for events previously funded by SEEF) are also given less priority. This doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get the money, but it does potentially reduce our chances.
Dependent upon a full cost review, it’s possible the EC can fund the Markets from its annual $10,000 budget. This solution is less ideal, however, since it would likely require a significant annual contribution from the department, reducing our ability to fund other projects in the future.
What might be more feasible is that the EC supports the Markets through non-financial means, as we did the first time. As Environment Officer my role in this project was in helping pitch the idea to ANUSA, organising initial meetings, monitoring things as it developed, and helping to smooth out the occasional bump. In the future, members from the EC could do the same thing I did; help coordinate efforts and organise the whole show.
Dependent on a more complete cost review, it may be possible
that fees charged to stall holders for attending may be able to fund the set up.
We made $680 in stallholder fees for our first run. We charged larger businesses $55, smaller businesses $35, student businesses $15, and gave free spots to community NGOs and business partners like the Food Co-Op which helped co-organise the event.
If a slight increase in fee amounts could help make the event financially feasible, that option could be explored. It’s not likely that the current fee structure alone is enough to support the event, unless perhaps a larger number of businesses participated.
Given the range of benefits to ANU, other ANU organisations
beyond ANUSA/PARSA may be able to provide financial and other support. ANU
Green, ANU Communications, ANU Gardens and Grounds, ANU Facilities and
Services, and potentially other ANU executives and academics could all play a
positive role in helping support this event. I’m currently exploring ways to reach
out and work with these groups and others, to see what might be possible.
Wider promotion of the event, and more targeted invitations prior to it, could result in a larger and more diverse participation from students as businesses.
Music: We could establish a handful of “busking” spots around the market where students can perform for passers-by. Larger events (including loudspeakers and bands/shows) might be possible further down the line.
Art: Whether live sketching, painting, sculpting and other creations, or showcasing (and if they like, selling) prior works on the day, the markets can be a fun way for artistic students to engage with the community and promote their work and the arts more broadly.
Food: Student clubs and societies have a proven track record as fantastic event caterers! In the past there have been a range of themed food events run by various student-led organisations: African food, Asian night markets, Momo-making, and on the list goes. These markets could be excellent fundraisers for student organisations and offer them a way to engage with students and the broader community.
Other student business: The possibilities for more student involvement here are broad. On campus there are likely many other things students are doing that could provide value to the market. Beyond campus, other educational institutions involve students creating value too. At CIT, for example, horticulture students raise plants for sale at their own markets – and may be interested in establishing themselves at ours too.
The presence of the markets themselves, as well as the Sustainable Food Guide both represent an ongoing campaign for sustainable food consumption and production. Models like Option 1, that provide not only the markets
Even on their own, however, the markets offer an opportunity for student campaigners operating in the sustainability space to reach a like-minded audience. At our first markets, we handed out lots of flyers for an upcoming rally on climate change. Other campaigns could likewise use the markets for added exposure.
A small number of organisations were present at the markets in an educational or advocacy role including the ANU Environment Collective, distributing the Sustainable Food Guide and information about other NGOs. It would be good to see more participating, such as Conservation Council ACT, SEE Change, AAEE, and so on.
Do other ANU organisations have something to contribute? Is
there some research or other projects, amenable to presentation at a market
stall, that could the benefit the community?