A driving force in the early days of the Matakana Farmers Market, Barbara Souter, aka The Bag Lady, is calling it a day.
Barbara says that after 16 years, it is time to hand over to someone with fresh ideas and energy.
“I’m looking forward to the freedom of not being committed every Saturday,” she says. “When the business is sold, the plan is to travel overseas, mainly France, and around New Zealand.”
It was Richard and Christine Didsbury’s vision for the farmers market that first drew Barbara to Matakana.
“I’d recently returned from Germany when I read about their plans and thought, ‘I’d love to be involved in that’. I have a public relations and events management background, so they hired me to sell and promote Brick Bay Wines and get the market up and running. I introduced them to Joe Polaischer and Trish Allen, who at that time owned Rainbow Valley Farm, and it all started from there.
“My job was to identify local growers and producers and convince them to come on board. It wasn’t always easy because farmers can be shy, but it was lots of fun.
“The Bag Lady stall was there from the very beginning. Other market originals included Cobara Foods, Whangateau Roses, Matakana Coffee, Organic Delights Chocolates and the Lothlorien Winery.”
Barbara has been actively involved in business and community activities in the area for many years.
She and Trish Allen were the masterminds behind the Kingdom for a Day event in 2007, which raised money for the Matakana toilets. Eleven years later, Barbara and a team organised MataCarnival, which raised $57,000 for the parking area beside Matakana School.
She owned and ran the delicatessen Market Provedores at Snells Beach for five years and worked at Nosh for five years. She also runs a small holiday accommodation business.
“It’s been wonderful to watch Matakana develop into the exciting, sophisticated little village it is now. I get such a buzz from hosting visitors and seeing them enjoy all that our area has to offer.
“I believe the Matakana Community Group can take a lot of the credit for this.”
Barbara says the market is always evolving and the stallholders feel like a family.
“I will miss the camaraderie.”