New moms breathe life into Kingston market
The Aurora Inn in the village of Kingston, N.S., boasts many amenities, including a large expanse of park-like lawn at the corner of Hwy. 1 and Maple Street. Six days a week, this green space is a tranquil refuge for overnight guests and passersby, but on Thursday afternoons from June to October, the area comes alive with what looks like a festival but is actually a new weekly market.
Organizers Sarah Naesmyth and Lauren Avery went to the same high school and renewed their acquaintance when both became new mothers. With little ones adding complications to any outing, they talked about the need for a market that was closer to home than those they usually patronized. When Avery suggested they work together to start one in Kingston, Naesmyth didn’t need to think about it. “Let’s do it,” she said.
Locating it in the scenic village of Kingston, which sits on a historic river, made sense for many reasons. It’s halfway between established markets in Wolfville and Annapolis Royal, filling a service gap and providing a closer venue for local producers. Another major advantage is that Naesmyth’s grandmother owns the Aurora Inn and her parents have run it for years. Having access to their property eliminated much of the red tape involved in finding a suitable location.
“The Village of Kingston, the county, and the province have also been very supportive,” says Avery. “People in all of those levels of government have offered resources and direction. After meeting with MLA Chris Palmer in 2022, we went away to fine-tune our plan and established the market as a non-profit.”
Having travelled widely before the arrival of their children, Naesmyth and Avery had visited markets around the world and knew the qualities that made some stand out. For Kingston, they envisioned a market culture that is as much about getting together with friends as it is about purchasing goods. “As moms in the community, it was important to us that we create something that would bring people together,” says Naesmyth. “We also wanted a space that would accommodate strollers and where children could play safely under many watchful eyes.”
After many hours spent staring out the window of the Aurora Inn and imagining what the market would look like, Naesmyth and Avery developed an initial plan to attract 30 vendors. They reached that number by April 2023, so they decided to aim for 40. By opening day on June 1, there were 50 committed vendors offering products ranging from vegetables, meat, eggs, and gourmet mushrooms to coffee, cider, clothing and small-batch sourdough bread.
By the second market of the season, a wet afternoon in early June, it was clear they were on to a good thing when all the vendors were still smiling at 7 p.m. “No one was itching to leave — even though it was pouring rain,” says Avery. “We were overjoyed at the response.”
Food trucks deserve some of the credit for making the once-quiet corner in Kingston the place to be on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Rain or shine, patrons are happy to queue up for authentic Jamaican cuisine at Cinderella’s Caribbean Pot, homemade Middle East fare at the Mama Pita Food Trailer, gourmet creations from Farm to Truck Take-out, and a variety of other offerings. Some diners sit on blankets at skids that are artfully covered with white tablecloths. Others enjoy their meals at the long communal tables and chairs donated each week by the Kingston Lions. Many say they have no plans to cook at home on Thursday nights until the market closes for the season.
As with many social enterprises, volunteer help is key to making it all happen, so Naesmyth and Avery were thrilled when more than 20 people came forward after a community call-out in April 2023. Even well-established causes are having a hard time attracting volunteers these days, so from the organizers’ perspective, it was especially gratifying to have so many show up for something that hadn’t yet happened.
For market volunteer Maggie Travis, who moved to Kingston two years ago when her husband was posted at the nearby military base, helping with the market is a way to support the community and forge connections in what will be her family’s forever home. She gets her greatest satisfaction when being useful, so she enjoys showing up each week and working behind the scenes with other happy individuals to build the market from the ground up.
“It really does feel like a festival, with people sitting on blankets and enjoying music on the stage, or taking part in educational workshops that might have them try something new,” says Travis. “I love people-watching, and seeing who is buying what from whom, who is dancing to the music, and who is eating what. This market is a special thing, and I so hope it continues for years to come!”
10 Tips for Establishing a Community Market
1. Gauge the demand for a community market by speaking with local producers.
2. Identify potential locations and investigate the need for permits and other legal permissions.
3. Contact local growers and producers to establish a potential list of vendors.
4. Identify the customer base and determine the appropriate mix and volume of products.
5. Investigate possible sources of funding and enlist supporters from all levels of government.
6. Look to other community markets for best practices. Borrow what works. Improve on what doesn’t!
7. Choose a time and day of the week that balances vendors’ preferences with consumer availability.
8. Build in adequate lead time until opening day.
9. Recruit volunteers and community organizations to help make the dream a reality.
10. Communicate regularly with volunteers, vendors and other stakeholders and promote the market at every opportunity.
There are more than 40 farmers' markets operating in the province. To learn more about starting one in your community contact the Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative www.farmersmarketnovascotia.ca or Kingston organizers Sarah Naesmyth and Lauren Avery at firstname.lastname@example.org