At country food market, demand always outstrips supply
"The fact that the communities stayed supportive is pretty much my measure of success”
Hunters show up in -40 C temperatures, sometimes with an armful of frozen ptarmigan speckled with blood, a qamutik loaded with caribou, or seal meat.
Even if it’s only a few hunters, they always show up.
This is why Willie Hyndman runs the Iqaluit country food market, held in trappers’ tents at Iqaluit Square, where anyone with country food, such as seal or arctic char — and sometimes bannock — can sell their catch.
After 15 markets in Iqaluit and one in Rankin Inlet, one thing is for sure: demand is always greater than supply.
The inspiration for the market is Greenland, where producing and selling country food there is a viable profession, Hyndman said.
The first market took place during the Iqaluit craft fair in November 2010, when 250 people lined up before the hunters arrived. Everything sold out immediately.
Hyndman saw there was a huge demand for country food and that “people who don’t have access to it want to pay for it.”
“They want to support the hunters and get it on the table,” he said.
So, with money from the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation, Hyndman bought some tents and got started.
In January 2011, he organized monthly markets and began running them until spring of that year. Then he held similar markets until March of this year, when he ran out of money, but kept running markets.
When Hyndman started up, “the oral history was that nobody wanted to see a market in Iqaluit,” but as time went on it seemed no one was actually against the idea.
“If there are any sort of complaints, that’s it: where’s the caribou, it’s too crazy, there’s too many people, but for the most part the hunters I talk to want to come back and people show up every time,” he said.
The market has attracted a lot of attention in Nunavut, including in communities which are thinking of starting similar ventures. ‘Though in demand, the markets’ supply is unpredictable.
The only factors under Hyndman’s direct control are advertising and the setting up of the two tents.
“Everything else is you know [variable], the weather, if the hunters are successful,” he said.
There are repeat hunters who bring meat or fish to the markets, but as a general rule hunters just show up, which is fine with Hyndman, who said he wants “to make it easy for them to participate.”
Hunters have told him they’d like to see the market put on more frequently.
Still, the market can be a bit of a roller-coaster due to the uncertainty of supply and demand. Hyndman says he’s happy “when a lot of hunters show up with food and people are happy.”
“When not as many show up, it’s harder,” Hyndman said.“[But] it’s new to Nunavut, and so learning the dynamics, learning when to hold the market, how to relate to hunters and all that stuff. Just the fact that the communities stayed supportive is pretty much my measure of success.”