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To Market via Field and Stream

To Market via Field and Stream

The weekly market in Bezau is approaching its third season. From June to October, locals sell their products at the village square every Friday. Cooperation is the key ingredient.

The keys to a good weekly market are many and there is plenty to learn from the one in Bezau. This special market features five community stands in total, occupied on a rotating basis by bakers, farmers, florists, cheesemakers, and the providers of various specialities (marmalades, oils, gift ideas, etc.). This consistency allows consumers to count upon a set assortment of products. Meanwhile, the market’s exclusive special bread is available every Friday, regardless of which baker is currently present. Measures, such as having a roof and the installation of gutters to prevent the rain from spoiling a delightful day at the market, have brought additional planning security to the market stands. Last but not least is the optical component: The NONA architectural firm led by Nora Heinzle and Anja Innauer in Dornbirn designed the visually attractive, uniform market stands that were then constructed by Bregenzerwald craftsmen. “There was some skepticism when we first initiated the weekly project,” recalls Magdalena Steurer.“After all, not every interested customer wanted or was able to attend a weekly market.” Currently on maternity leave, Steurer is the CEO of witus, a cooperative dedicated to promoting cooperation across numerous branches in five villages of the greater Bezau area.

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Up until recently, there had been no weekly market in Bregenzerwald at all. For the initiators of the weekly markets, it was important not to involve any external stall owners but to instead rely on local shopkeepers and producers. Speaking to the 36-year old from Bizau, it quickly becomes clear just how much these events mean to her. “On the one hand it works across all branches, but it’s vital to emphasise that cooperation is key and the principles of witus are reflected in all aspects of this project.” The very success of the markets has proven such ideals correct as many guests in spring have already been asking about when the markets will start up again. They appreciate the relaxed, friendly atmosphere and word has gotten out in other parts of Bregenzerwald. This means that Friday has really become a day to look forward to, just as the event’s marketing promises.Magdalena Steurer agrees: “We really have fun at these events.”

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The sellers at these markets are also having a great time, and with good reason: They don’t have to set up or take down their stands each week. Instead, this work is performed by Helmut Eberle, who works for the municipality, Georg Fröwis and Stefan Meusburger, members of the witus Executive Board, and a group of volunteers. Yet another special feature ensures lasting success: The honest promise that everything offered at the market and not sold will be sold the next day in stores or will be used by the local restaurants. Normally, it doesn’t come to this because demand is so great for products that little remains to sell to restaurants. For instance at the first market in Bezau in 2016, Roman Natter had already sold all of his vegetables by 10 am. Luckily, there was an obvious solution. Roman simply returned to his field and harvested salad, washed it in the village stream, and returned to his stand. In the meantime, Stefan Meusburger served customers a glass of sparkling wine to keep things in excellent order during the wait. The main goal of witus is to ensure that village life remains vibrant and viable and stories such as these demonstrate the way forward.

Author: Thorsten Bayer