Despite the pandemic, the Warehouse Market in Halifax is busy and thriving.
Their small warehouse space on Isleville Street in the North End sells a variety of fresh produce, fish, and meat. The market is a collaboration between Abundant Acres Farm, Afishionado Fish Mongers, and Holdanca Farms.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, David and Jen Greenberg, who started Abundant Acres Farm, have been able to continue to share their produce with the city at Warehouse Market.
“At one point, we were one of the very few sources of local food, certainly in the North End,” said David Greenberg.
One of the ways that this time has been successful for them has been their Surplus Boxes. At the end of their four-day market, Greenberg said they pack up all the produce that’s left over, and deliver it to people’s homes.
While this initiative has always been popular for Abundant Acres, Greenberg said orders for Surplus Boxes boomed during the pandemic.
“When COVID was really bad in the spring, and everyone was really staying home, we would sell, I would say like, 100 shares in two hours kind of thing,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg also said that the Surplus Boxes bring other benefits, since they are able to get their food waste to “almost nothing.”
Amid news of the Halifax Seaport Market moving to Pavilion 22 and becoming an open-air market in the summer, Warehouse Market is continuing to do well. The Seaport Market cited their seven-day schedule, lack of tourism, and public-health restrictions as some of the reasons for their move.
In comparison, the Warehouse Market only operates four days a week, and is a collaborative effort, according to John Duynisveld, the owner of Holdanca Farms.
This, as well as huge community support, has allowed Warehouse Market to continue to operate.
The evolution of Warehouse Market
The Greenbergs started Abundant Acres in Hants County in 2011, and they said farming has always been a love of theirs. Abundant Acres was originally a small market garden, but as word started to get around about this local produce, “it just kind of naturally grew,” Greenberg said.
They were selling their produce in Victoria Park until 2016, when the city revoked their permission to sell there.
“We were suddenly without a home,” said Greenberg.
He said that they were saved by Hannah Nelson, who runs Afishionato Fishmongers. Nelson had been leasing the space above the Warehouse Market, and invited Abundant Acres to come in with them to rent that space, and start selling their produce there.
Since the owner of the space was already a friend and customer of Duynisveld and Holdanca Farms, they invited him to sell his meat products there as well.
“Suddenly, we had fish, meat and produce all together in this somewhat dilapidated garage,” recalled Greenberg. “We didn’t really think it would be a very successful location… (but) the rent was cheap.”
They were worried about the location at first, Greenberg said.
“It’s not really a retail spot…just this back road, back street in the slightly dodgy neighbourhood,” he said.
Greenberg said that their attitude was “we don’t have any other options…let’s do it.”
A silver lining to COVID-19
To their surprise, the neighbourhood totally supported it.
“It kind of took off…now it’s just been growing rapidly every year,” he said. “It just immediately exceeded our expectations and just keeps going.”
Greenberg says that the market provides the community with good local produce, and a non-corporate environment to shop at.
“Hopefully, the food tastes better. I think it does,” he said.
Duynisveld said that he thinks the pandemic has actually connected people to local food.
“I think that in the process of realizing the challenges of a global food system, they have gotten to appreciate the quality, the taste and just the value of local food,” he said.
Above all, Greenberg says he loves giving customers the experience of a real market.
“I’m like, I bet these kids are going to remember this kind of cool, weird store that they went shopping with their parents at. And how alive and funky it is,” he said. “And of course, I just love farming.”
About the author
Natalie MacMillan is from Toronto, Ontario, and works out of Halifax.