Monday, February 14, 2011

Niagara Seedy Saturday is over and we're movin' on! (yes-it's a rant!)

From it's humble beginnings in 2007, Niagara Seedy Saturday has gathered a whole lot of momentum!

That is thanks to the "growing" interest in gardening, growing your own food and increased interest in heirlooms.  Which in my opinion have a lot of advantages over hybrid introductions.

The first Niagara Seedy Saturday, and the second as well, were held at Rodman Hall, an offshoot of Brock University. At the time it was the Niagara Chapter of Canadian Organic Growers, of which I was a member, that was organizing the event.

But our chapter was a bit dismal.  We organized farm tours and events that no one showed up to.  One farm tour that was organized even saw the owner of the farm absent!

Our kitchen table meetings were a bust.  Nice folks, but very few of us.  At the end of the whole thing in 2008, we didn't even have enough members to form a skeleton governing body that Canadian Organic Growers (COG) dictated we must have.

And for me, with the growing emphasis on certification, I just felt COG wasn't really speaking for me.

So the chapter disbanded (again), but my thought was that Seedy Saturday was without a doubt our most successful endeavour and needed to be carried on.  The feedback about the event was positive and from year one to year two it had certainly become more popular.

Finding a location for the third year was a challenge. As a non-profit group more opportunities are available to you, but as an individual trying to put on precisely the same event - doors close.  The cities in our fair region told me to forget it, no free room.  Rodman Hall was not interested and it was only with great luck I managed to pair up with a students group at Brock who secured Pond Inlet for the event.

Great location and lots of room, but the university would not drop their parking fee- a steep $6.00 for Seedy Saturday participants.

My goal has always been to encourage people to come out by keeping the price to a minimum.  I knew after that year we had to move on, despite how wonderful a facility it was.

While at Ball's Falls for another reason altogether, it struck me that clearly what we had here was a terrific fit.  And what with the new Centre for Conservation...a long term solution to my Seedy Saturday location dilemma! Right?  Ha!! Think again!  

What I didn't anticipate was dealing with unpleasant, unhelpful people who book these events at Balls Falls.
2010 went off okay.  I paid the fee, was hit with a damage deposit I was not made aware of until the last minute, and hoped like heck I'd get some money back by charging a $1.00 admission to the event. It all worked out just fine, and after paying the bills, had money left over to donate to USC Canada.
About 500 people attended!

This year was nothing but a battle dealing with Balls Falls.  After confirming the event in the fall with their staff, I was contacted in December asking why I was advertising it at Balls Falls. I reconfirmed and understood all was essentially the same as the year before.

3 weeks before the event I was told the cost was much higher, the damage deposit was higher, and they would charge my Seedy Saturday participants their fee to enter the park.  $5.75 per person!  Forget any fuzzy warm feelings you may associate with Balls Falls in thinking they are environmental do-gooders. It is just a job.  And one they are not happy doing.

After discussions, they dropped the day pass charge, but left me at a higher rate.  Therefore folks, the fee went up to $2.00 so I could cover my costs.  Which I did, unless I don't get my damage deposit back.
If they consider there were no damages, I will have a healthy $370.00 to donate to USC Canada.  That makes me happy.

I think the event went off okay.  All my exhibitors were exceptional, speakers also.  NICE people!
I was very disturbed to find out that people were being turned away at the parking lot because it was full and being told there was no other area to park by park staff.  My pleas fell on deaf ears.
Perhaps if you know there is a big event coming up you would plow the main parking lot properly and also plow the lower parking lot to make room for overflow.
If you were people who were turned away, I am so very sorry. Won't happen again.

Why am I telling people all this?

Because this is an event organized for the community.  Balls Falls is a public place that your tax dollar and mine pay for. This event should have been an ideal fit for the Conservation Authority, there should have been encouragement and support. Movin' on.

I have an idea in mind for next years Seedy Saturday.  A larger venue, lots of parking and yes, I heard the words I longed to hear..."You're a farmer? We'd love to work with you!"


Kris Mo said...

Sigh. I'm so sorry that you had such a tough time, Linda, and it indeed does boggle the mind that the folks at Ball's Falls clearly don't understand the marketing potential of what would have been a beneficial partnership. It's really too bad.

That said, here's to a bigger and brighter future for Seedy Saturday in 2012! Thanks for everything you've done to keep growing this amazing event.

Buttons said...

Oh I am so sorry you had to go through that. The words "I'm a farmer" does not seem to mean much around a lot of places these days.
I think Ball's Falls missed out on an amazing opportunity. Their loss, to bad for your participants and yourself they did not realize that. B

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bluelacedredhead said...

Mebbe it's a good thing that I missed this years event?? (Redhair and all, lol)

So sorry to hear that it was such a stressor in 2011. I agree that a new venue is in order for 2012.