The ‘Conu’co Market at the Cove’, a local event that brings Jamaican farmers, artisans, chefs and entrepreneurs together to promote local products, is currently in its second year and will be held this Sunday, October 20 at Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in Priory, St Ann, near Ocho Rios.
The event, which is run by two St Ann businesswomen, Amanda Maffessanti of Grizzly’s Plantation Cove and Lisa Binns of Stush in the Bush, is now held multiple times per year and has grown exponentially since its inception, last year.
The market features everything from food and drink, craft, cottage and artisanal products to clothing, art, jewellery, farm fresh produce, hair and body care, plants, and more under the theme “locally made, grown and sewn”.
“We are extremely happy with how Conu’co Market has grown,” enthused Maffessanti. “Our first market in May 2018 was quite small, relatively speaking. Thankfully, there were around 75 vendors who were willing to take a leap of faith with us, and signed up.”
“It was a great success and, compared with our May 2019 market, where we had 115 vendors and over 1,000 patrons, you can really see how much we have grown,” she added.
According to Maffessanti, Conu’co is a word from the language of Jamaica’s original inhabitants, the Tainos, which means ‘life soil’. The word was chosen as a name for the market to acknowledge local producers and entrepreneurs of all kinds.
“We think Conu’co Market has greatly benefited local vendors in a number of ways,” said Maffesanti.
“We noticed quite early on that there are many fairs and markets in Kingston, but none to speak of in St Ann. We have provided not only a space, but also affordable opportunities, for local vendors to showcase their products.”
Vendors who have been making use of Conu’co since its beginning include Siwatu Jewelry, Yabba Pottery, My Old Man Leathercraft, the Jamaica Peanut Butter Factory, Kew Park Farms, Yaadie Vegan, Simo’s Bread and Catering, Tasha & Tiane Fashion, Deaf Can! Coffee, Outland Hurders, as well as a number of local farmers including Mr and Mrs Mongol, Andrea Dyer, and Wilford ‘The Coconut Man’ Campbell.
Maffessanti claimed the vendors have benefited from their exposure at the event which has connected them with shop owners who come to explore their products. For many vendors, Conu’co has been their first market and it has prepared them for similar events elsewhere.
“There are some truly talented individuals here, doing great work we can all be proud of as Jamaicans, and they deserve the opportunity to be able to make a name for themselves,” she said.
“Buying local ultimately means investing back into Jamaica — and we believe Jamaica is worth investing in.”
Maffessanti noted that Conu’co has grown organically through its own energy and she pointed out that this has taken place through social media with no other form of promotion being utilised. Patrons are lured by the appeal of interesting and intriguing local products.
Admission is free and there is a variety of food and beverages available from vendors who have come from across the island. These vendors are set up in 16 permanent structures at the event. Despite their success, the entrepreneurs behind Conu’co want to see it expand even further as they move forward.
“In the future we would like to have a more upscale night market and perhaps a food-only version of Conu’co Market, our own little version of a foodie festival, as well as incorporating live music into our events,” Maffessanti revealed.
“We would also love to be able to include more tourists among our patrons because we are so incredibly proud to show off all of our vendors,” she continued.
“We have some really fantastic vendors with truly amazing Jamaican products and many tourists miss out on seeing items from these vendors as they aren’t necessarily represented in the craft markets or hotel gift shops.”
The upcoming market on Saturday will be the second to be held this year and there will be a third during the Christmas season on December 15. Saturday’s occasion will run from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
“This weekend, patrons can look forward to a free, family- friendly day on a beautiful north coast property browsing food and fare from over 125 local Jamaican small businesses,” Maffessanti said.