For this week’s #myclimateplan feature we spoke with Kate Fagan. Kate is the Manager of the Privateer Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market in Liverpool, on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. She shares why farmers’ markets are the best way to get to know a community, the vital role they play in addressing food insecurity, and why they need our support more than ever.
Kate Fagan has always loved markets. When she began travelling the world in her 20s, one of the first stops she would make in every city or town was the local market.
She says, “If you want to learn about a community anywhere and they have a local market – go there. It will show you what kind of food people eat and enjoy, what kinds of crafts or products the area is known for, and just the overall vibe of the people. Some markets are calm and quiet, others are bustling and noisy. But each tells the story of the people who bring it to life.”
It was only natural then that Kate and her partner Sem decided to join a market in her hometown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia as vendors. Being on the other side of the table gave her incredible insight into the power that markets can play in supporting and connecting communities.
She reflects, “You really get to know your community in a deep way when you connect with local makers and growers. A farmer will come from just outside of town with their produce and you get to spend hours talking to them about the processes they use to grow their vegetables, the care with which they raise their animals.”
“You know that the peppers you’re buying from them were harvested that morning or maybe the day before. They haven’t been sitting on a truck for weeks, travelling thousands of miles to get to the grocery store. It really builds so much trust and such a deeper appreciation for the ways in which food ends up on our plates.”
A year ago Kate and Sem relocated to Liverpool, Nova Scotia – a small rural community on the province’s famed South Shore – to have more room to raise their children and a more affordable cost of living.
Soon after they settled, Kate began visiting the local market, and four months ago she found herself taking on the role of market manager. She explains, “At first I thought it would be sort of like event management. But I quickly realized it’s so much more than that.”
“You’re dealing with people’s creations and their livelihoods. It takes a lot of care and making sure that everyone feels heard and supported. I think that’s really my strength and part of why the last year has seen a new spirit and energy at the market. People are coming from all around to both shop and sell. They know it’s a safe and welcoming space”
Part of what drives Kate in her role is a firm belief that farmers’ markets can do even more to bring people together and help ensure everyone in the community feels supported and taken care of.
With nearly 1 in 4 people unable to consistently afford nutritious food, Nova Scotia has some of the highest rates of food insecurity in Canada. Farmers’ markets – once considered a higher priced luxury – are jumping in to meet the need.
Launched in 2018 by the Farmers Markets’ of Nova Scotia, the Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Program has been transforming markets’ abilities to address food insecurity. Under the program, markets work with local organizations to identify families in need in the community. These families are then given “food bucks”, an alternative currency that can be used at any participating market just like regular money.
The currency is completely anonymous – it is also available for purchase by other market go-ers to use when they don’t have cash and is constantly moving through the system. This means that no person or family is singled out.
There are no restrictions on what can be purchased, and at the end of each market, vendors cash in their food bucks for regular dollars with the market treasurer.
Kate has seen the transformative benefits of the program firsthand. She says, “Not only does it mean that these families can access highly nutritious food, it also helps them to feel so much more welcome and connected to the community overall. And it brings more people to the markets, meaning the vendors benefit too. It really is changing lives.”
And although the Liverpool market is having a highly successful season under the care of Kate the and market’s board of directors, she highlights the fact that many markets have still not recovered from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She says, “Not only did the pandemic mean that many markets had to close – eliminating a vital source of income for farmers and artisans – we also saw a real decrease in participation once things started to reopen.”
“If you haven’t been to a market in a while – or ever – now is the time to go. Markets really are a balm for so much of the fear and uncertainty that is a result of the state of the world currently. When you come to a market you’re not just supporting the vendors, you also become part of building a more resilient and vibrant community for everyone. The value goes so much further than what’s on the table.”
If Kate’s story resonates with you, we invite you to join My Climate Plan as a founding member to take action together for a climate safe future.