Celebrations . . . Oamaru Farmers’ Market co-managers Thaka Mandiwona (left) and Annah Evington prepare to celebrate the market’s 10th year this weekend.

For many people in Oamaru, a Sunday is incomplete without waking up bright and early and heading off to the Oamaru Farmers’ Market for some fresh produce and a chinwag.

For the past 10 years, stallholders have woken up even earlier to set up shop and welcome the community, rain or shine.

This Sunday those 10 years will be celebrated – and everyone in town is invited.

Although the market is set to celebrate its decade milestone, its story really started 11 years ago, in 2010, thanks to a group of persistent hopefuls.

Dixie Boraman was one of those hopefuls.

In fact, she was chairwoman of the market’s first committee.

“I have always been passionate about farmers’ markets,” Mrs Boraman said.

Mrs Boraman put that passion to the test as she and other community members hatched a plan to launch the Oamaru Farmers’ Market.

Between setting up a steering group, organising a venue and stallholders, running a survey and researching other markets, it “took a good year” to organise, she said.

There had been previous attempts at setting up an Oamaru market, but they seemed to “depend on the personality or enthusiasm of the person running it” and would quickly fizzle out. Keeping this in mind, the group wanted to set up the market in a way that was not dependent on an individual, with a framework, committee, and a “serious intent for it to continue”.

A significant donation from a local family enabled the market to employ a market manager and co-ordinator, which was vital in setting things up without burning out volunteers, Mrs Boraman said.

“None of us wanted to put in all this work and have it fizz out.”

After finding 10 to 12 stallholders, the first market was held on September 11, 2011.

Ten years on, Mrs Boraman was impressed with the range of products sold and said the space allowed people who might not be ready to go into large business to test their products.

She believed the connection between the producer or grower and the community was very important.

Those community values could be easily lost in a busy urban life and the market was a way to build that up in Oamaru, she said.

“It’s a great asset for Oamaru.”

Mrs Boraman left her position as chairwoman after experiencing a family tragedy in 2012.

She joined the Waimate Community Market after moving to Waimate almost three years ago, and was now its secretary.

Though she did not go to Oamaru’s market as often she would like to, it was “lovely to see the same faces that were there right at the beginning”, she said.

One of those faces belonged to Sue Harvey, better known as the Cheese Roll Lady.

Serving staples of the south, Ms Harvey was a staple of the market, and her favourite thing about it was seeing regulars – especially young regulars growing older and starting families of their own.

Over the years she had seen the market change in many ways, the main one being the growth of food vendors.

“There are some lovely vendors.”

It was hard for stallholders not to become friends.

“It’s lovely because we are quite a close market.”

At the end of the Sunday market, a group of vendors would enjoy a drink at Scotts Brewing Co – the very building that formerly stored its stalls, she said.

Ms Harvey was hoping for nice weather on Sunday for the celebrations.

Weather permitting, it seemed likely.

Market co-manager Annah Evington said there would be lucky dips, live music and nibbles, and a birthday cake would be cut at 11am.

Organisers had wanted to celebrate sooner, but chose to delay until Level 2 restrictions were lifted.

But in the end, they did not have to wait for that.

Last week, the Government lifted the 100-person cap at farmers markets under Delta Alert Level 2, after the Otago Farmers Market lobbied for change.

This gave Ms Evington and market co-manager Thaka Mandiwona the go-ahead they needed to throw a “little birthday celebration”.

Mrs Mandiwona said it was important to celebrate the impact the market had had on the community.

“Its contribution to the community is something that is commendable,” she said.

“It’s just a nice place for people to meet and mingle.”

Ms Evington said it was “a beloved part of the community”.

Leading up the celebrations the co-managers put together a 10-year compendium, and copies would be available this weekend.

The pair were excited to see the market’s development as part of the Oamaru Harbour Plan 2020 and Beyond.