Congratulations to 2015 Advocacy Award Nominee and Winner Farmers’ & Artisans’ Markets. The Advocacy Award recognizes a business/organization of under 10 employees OR an individual who has continuously and tirelessly promoted the concept of ability first, supported people in their efforts to obtain meaningful employment, and who has brought new and innovative perspectives to the workplace.
The annual Ability First Coalition Champion Awards celebrate and honour businesses, companies, individuals and organizations that have hired and retained people with disabilities in London, Ontario and surrounding area.
Nominee: Farmers’ & Artisans’ Markets
Representative: Brittany Coats, Management Support Personnel
Can you tell us a little about your business?
The Farmers and Artisans Market at the Western Fair (WFFAM) is primarily known for its Saturday Farmers’ Market. The WFFAM is a popular destination for chefs, cooks and local gastronomes in search of a wide variety of artisanal products and seasonal ingredients. Market-goers love the WFFAM because they can buy high-quality; farm-fresh goods directly from the person who produced them and can find unique products they won’t discover anywhere else in the city.
There is great shopping on the 2nd floor with over 40 permanent vendors and a rotating roster of weekly market table vendors providing friendly personalized service. Experience a variety of artisans’ products from the culinary arts to the fine arts. The Artisan’s Market also features the best and most unique craftspeople, artists and artisans, together with an eclectic roster of distinctive and locally handcrafted products, fine jewellery, collectibles and one-of-a-kind services.
With an area of 52,000 square feet, 80 vendors and a seasonally rotating roster of farmers and culinary artisans we offer a truly unique experience. The market is both an entertaining and educational venue for the whole family.
How long have you been in business?
In 1887, the Western Fair Association became a corporation and built exhibition buildings on Queen’s Park. The main building at Western fair was a huge wood and glass structure called The “Crystal Palace”. It unfortunately would later be lost in a fire in January of 1927. Its replacement was The Confederation building. The red brick Confederation building began as a place for local merchants to sell a diversity of wares. Today, the Confederation building is home to the Market. The present ownership of the Market is coming up to their 10 year anniversary. This is an exciting time for Management.
How many employees do you have?
The Market staff consist of 2 Managers, 1 Book-keeper and 3 cleaners. The Market is lucky to participate in the Job Creation Program which provides individuals with a contract position in the area of Community Involvement.
Did you have any prior experience working with people with disabilities?
Yes, The Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market is proudly in partnership with Hutton House. Our splendid contact Joe Gansevles works diligently to match us up with great candidates who may have special needs. Due to the size of our company the position available is cleaning during the week and on weekends. At this time we have a couple individuals with special needs that we are capable of providing a great work experience for. Each member of management has individually worked with people with disabilities in past work places.
How has your experience helped shape your outlook?
Our experience working with people with disabilities has shaped our outlook into a positive figure. With the right amount of support and training we are able to create a great working experience for all parties involved. We are here to help coach individuals so they can grow and learn new skills. This is always a great experience for all involved.
What were your initial feelings on hiring someone with a disability?
Our initial feelings on hiring someone with a disability has always been positive. We have been educated (some through schooling) about the importance of equality for all abilities. With the nature of the market we are able to offer a small job that will allow the employee to feel involved, independent and strong. There are many guidelines, workshops and books on how to approach certain situations that have been helpful for our team in the past years.
Why did you decide to hire someone with a disability?
We decided we would like to hire someone with a disability after being contacted by Hutton House. They had set up other businesses in the Market with staff before, so knew this was a good outlet. Joe Ganselves of Hutton House has been such a large support system to the Market Management as well as the staff provided. Joe was able to show us the skills and qualifications of each member, proving they would be able to fulfill the position.
How did you go about finding the right person for the job?
We owe this step to Joe Ganselves of Hutton House. When we have a position coming up we are able to send the details to Joe so he can find the perfect candidate amongst his clients. We then enter a small trial time where we see how the employee is finding their new role. At that point we are able to determine if this role is a good fit or not for the employee.
Can you describe one of the positions filled?
Right now we currently have a couple cleaner positions filled with employees with disabilities. These cleaners work together during the week and on Market Day Saturdays to ensure all areas of the Market are neat and tidy. Some duties include- cleaning washrooms, replacing garbage’s and sweeping/mopping the entire building.
How have these employee worked out for you?
These employees have been a treat to work with. In the beginning, like any new job, there are small bumps, but with support we have been able to find systems that work for all. Communication has been successful between managers and employees, it is great to know the employee feels secure and welcomed to voice opinions.
Were there any preconceptions you had about employing someone with a disability?
No, the market is very accepting of all abilities. When someone has the skills needed to fulfill the job, the disabilities come second.
We did not have any preconceptions, but this has changed one thing. The one thing that is has changed here in our work environment is the moral. The staff know they are accepted and are in a place where they feel comfortable. We can see when they are happy to be at work and take pride in their duties. One other thing that has changed has been some of our communication channels. One staff member has a hearing disability which means management must communicate using written word, which is working out well.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you hear other employers talk about when they hear you’ve hired people with disabilities?
We generally do not express that this is something we have done as we do not see it being any different than hiring someone with full abilities. Our vendors at the market are accepting and understanding about some limitations that our cleaners may have, they are all open to communicating so all parties receive the message clearly. We receive a lot of support if this topic rises.
If we were approached with negativity we would be able to explain that these individuals are completely capable of completing tasks we have outlined. They are not treated any differently than the other staff members.
What is your advice for other employers?
Find a position that is level with the individuals skill set. Be proud and encouraging towards this staff member and make them aware that they should not have to feel any different than other member of the team. These individuals with disabilities need coaches who can help them to grow and feel confident in a working atmosphere. The relationship with your staff member must be real and honest, open and inviting.
Please finish this sentence, “I hire for Ability First because…”
Everybody deserves to be treated fairly and equally. With a little support many people are capable of tasks they doubted in themselves.
What does being nominated for the Champion Awards mean to your business?
Being nominated to us is a great achievement. We are so happy that we are able to create these positive working experiences for individuals in our workplace. Helping to improving the quality of life for our employees is our main concern, so the recognition is an extra bonus.
The Market would like to thank all involved with setting up these awards. We are honored to be nominated and we wish all the best of luck to the other nominees. We really are all winners in the end.
*article updated on November 10, 2015