Ten Years of the Karkloof Farmers Market
“Do you remember peeping nervously around the door to see if any cars where coming?” recalls Kim with a grin. Her partner in their passion project Karkloof Farmers Market, Andrea, giggles, “Yes – then hundreds of people came and our coffee station was chaos because we didn’t have any sort of system!”
It is astonishing that Kim Drennan and Andrea Gibson are still so enthusiastic about their market that is 10 years old now, reminiscing about those early days with twinkling eyes and much laughter. Many of the ten stall holders who joined them on that first day are still regulars today. Many also remember the devastating fires that swept through the Karkloof, and the old sawmill shed where the market was to be held, in the days before the first event. “We wondered if we should even open, but are so glad we did. Some of our vendors had been badly affected and had to rebuild, so right from the start we became a strong community.”
In so many ways the market has flourished – becoming a regular Saturday activity for many Midlanders, small stallholders growing their businesses and moving on to fabulous things, and the children (read: assistants) of the vendors growing up, leaving home and wondering what ordinary people do on Saturday mornings.
“We were quite idealistic in the beginning, we wanted everything to be organic but soon realised that we have to offer our customers variety. Some people want the cheapest apple, while others need to know exactly where it was grown. We are all about smaller, local producers.” says Andrea. Most importantly, they wanted the market to be a place where one could do one’s weekly shopping – not just pop in for a cappuccino. They have achieved that with exceptional produce that draws visitors from far afield – including three styles of cheese, artisan bread, cakes, sweets, chickens and charcuterie, sprouts and spinach, fresh flowers, mushrooms, pickles and of course, everyone’s favourite, ‘Fresh Produce for the Mind’ second hand bookshop.
Their Old Mill coffee stall got so popular that they have even had to open another on the other side of the shed – aptly named Double Shot. Elizabeth Mvelase has been pulling the espresso shots for a decade and has a fan club of her own. “If Elizabeth is not behind the counter, everyone asks if she is ok,” remarks Kim. “Our market is definitely about the people. We have made so many friends – especially amongst the vendors. Danni (her mum is Di of Munchies) is planning her Matric dance, we are all eagerly helping with her dress choice and making sure her date is suitable!”
Children are an important part of the market and have always been included. “We love that kids say ‘Dad, can we go to the market please?’ and then spend a happy morning in a space where there is nothing to break and it does not matter if they spill stuff, while their parents relax with a pancake or smoothie.”
The Karkloof Farmers Market is also a place where one feels happy to go unaccompanied. You are sure to meet someone you know, and even if you don’t, the long communal tables are perfect for striking up convivial conversation or sharing tips on who has the best cauliflower this week – often with perfect strangers.
A decade of success is the perfect time to reflect and re-energise, so naturally this enterprising pair are exploring new opportunities. A better venue, a fresh look, more eco-awareness – positive changes that will ensure that in ten years from now we all still be calling this our favourite market. “We feel like we have a responsibility to the community to keep innovating and thriving.” concludes Andrea. Thank you, Karkloof Farmers Market team, we look forward to more of your delicious ideas.
(submitted by Nikki Brighton)