Farmers’ markets offer a great experience for consumers and sales opportunities for producers, but it’s often just a few hours every weekend.
Then what is a customer supposed to do? Make a trip to the farm? Wait until next week’s market day?
Creative Cleaver, a small butcher shop in Lethbridge, offers an innovative solution to this dilemma. Local producers rent space in the shop to display and sell their products six days a week so consumers can buy their favourite local food products when they want to.
Owners Andrew and Jennifer Anderson opened Creative Cleaver (then called PM Meat &Cheese) in 2002 to sell meat products from their other company, Prairie Meats, an abattoir in Coaldale, and Sunnyrose cheese products from Diamond City. The store, renamed in 2009, was closed for the latter half of last year because of staffing and product supply issues, but support from a consortium of local producers allowed it to reopen this year.
Now, in addition to their own products, the Andersons stock locally produced organic beef, custom sausage, pastured pork, free-range chicken, lamb, rabbit, venison, goat, duck, dairy products (including cow, goat and sheep’s milk, yogurt and cheese), saskatoon berry juice, and dried soup mixes.
“I am passionate about the products we offer and I want to educate people about the best ways to use them,” says Jennifer.
Saving valuable time
Harvey and Carolyn Van Driesten of Noble Meadows Farm near Nobleford have only had their products at Creative Cleaver for three months, but are already seeing benefits.
“Sales are steadily picking up and it’s more time effective than the farmers’ market,” says Carolyn.
Typically, producers who sell at a farmers’ market get up at four or five o’clock in the morning, pack their product, set up their table, sell for a few hours, and then pack up the remaining product, take it home and put it away. That’s a lot of hours of transporting product for a few hours of sales.
“Creative Cleaver is a nice way for us to get our product into Lethbridge,” says Carolyn. The Van Driestens milk 250 goats and began processing the milk into cheese and yogurt last summer. Their packaged products are also marketed at the Kingsland Market in Calgary.
Karen Goad, a farm-direct marketing specialist with Alberta Agriculture and a member of the Explore Local initiative, says the farm fresh market is young in Alberta but there is great potential.
“We’ve seen a push for local and farm-direct products in the past 10 to 15 years,” says Goad. “Alberta does a really good job in marketing farm direct, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Goad says there a push-pull production requirement where it requires a lot of time to produce a farm product and an equal amount of time to market that product.
“Unless you have a lot of people involved in your operation, there’s never enough time to do everything,” she says. “A partnership, like Creative Cleaver has with producers, is a great way to capture a city audience. The city consumer has week-long access to a place that sells local farm products.”
“Iampassionateaboutthe productsweofferandIwantto educatepeopleaboutthebest waystousethem.”