Founder Greg Straw on 10 years of the Fourways Farmers Market

more than a year ago
When landscape architect and horticulturalist Greg Straw started the Fourways Farmers Market 10 years ago he could have never foreseen it growing into the biggest market in Johannesburg, or that it would no longer be in Fourways. We spoke to him about the journey of what started as a passion project and is now one of Joburg's great attractions.
Fourways Farmers Market's picturesque setting.

The idea for the market came about after his father passed away, and he was reminiscing about Sunday picnics as a child. What he realised was that while Joburg has plenty of beautiful picnic spots, not everyone wants to go the whole hog and prepare the potato salad, chicken, cakes and thermos of coffee. And so the idea for a market which embodies the idea of time spent outdoors with good company came about. 

While he knew what he wanted to do, whether or not he would be able to make it work was quite another thing. “Ten years ago markets in Joburg were a bit of an old boys club and then here I come along, Greg the Gardener, with no events or catering experience saying I wanted to start a market.”

Undeterred, he set things in motion and started designing and building the market in Fourways. The opening day came about with Greg being a bundle of nerves, “If I’m honest I think I’ve only felt more nervous when my first child was born.” At the start there were 23 vendors and some 500 people showed up. It didn't come without its surprises and he laughs as he remembers having to cover stalls with hay bales so people didn’t see they were empty. Fast forward to today and this seems impossible with the current Fourways Farmers Market housing 106 vendors and seeing foot traffic of more than 7000 people a weekend.
Plenty of food and drink stalls mean you never have to wait in a queue for long.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The market faced legal challenges, it's change of venue to the Modderfontein Nature Reserve was an enormous move, there was pesky Covid at the same time, and then just the difficulties of smoothly running what Greg describes as essentially a festival every weekend.

The team managed to ride through every storm and even kept 500 jobs going through Covid. “What really made it possible to keep going through all the various difficulties was our community. We have a number of vendors who have stuck with us since the beginning such as Sumting Fresh, Arte Gelato, Alchemy and Just Cravings. Then we’ve garnered a loyal customer base who have stuck with us, when we launched Fridays@Fourways in February this year. The weather was miserable, yet there were still more than 500 people who came to enjoy themselves in the rain and wind. We don’t outsource any jobs either and all the cleaning staff, maintenance crew and security who make sure the venue is back in top shape each weekend are an essential component too. It really has become one big community, and I love meeting visitors and hearing their thoughts and stories.”

A big part of the appeal of Fourways Farmers Market is how they cater for multiple different experiences on one weekend with Greg pointing to how Saturday mornings are slower and more family-orientated while Sunday afternoons are pumping. This is also why they recently added a Friday evening market to the mix, and it means you can choose what type of market experience you want on any given weekend. 
A lovely summers day overlooking Modderfontein Nature Reserve.

It is this adaptability and innovation which has ensured that Fourways Farmers Market not only widens its appeal but also keeps things interesting for returning customers. Greg laughs as we ask him what’s next for Fourways Farmers Market, “Sometimes I don’t even know. I’ll see something and think ‘oh, this could work well here’ and then I’ll do it. What’s important to us is keeping the core components and values consistent: people, community, a love of the outdoors and quality food. But the big thing is that we have plans for a new market in the works. I’m really excited for it as I can take all the things we’ve learnt over the past 10 years and implement them. It will be in the West Rand and much like when I started it in Fourways I want to surprise people with where you can create a haven.”

Join Greg in celebrating 10 years of the Fourways Farmers Market from Fri, Mar 3 to Sun, Mar 5.


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