Christine Standeaven started the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market 20 years ago.
DURBAN - Christine and Keith Standeaven started the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market 20 years ago.

They owned a mushroom farm and when they had a surplus, they would go to Pietermaritzburg and sell there.

“We also had a client who took mushrooms to the old Durban Drive-in but there was nothing in-between,” says Christine. “It was then that we leased a piece of land from Shongweni Club.

“Initially we did it all ourselves. We ran the coffee, the burgers, the egg and bacon rolls and pancakes under one roof. That’s how small we were. But slowly as the market grew, we gave it all out.

“When we started, I had no idea what a cappuccino was and then this young chap, Carl, came with his coffee cart. He’s still with us today and now has four stands at the market. The egg lady has been with us since the beginning. We’ve made some good friendships.

“The market grew faster than we could cope,” she says of the first move to a piece of land the couple owned near the new Hillcrest Private Hospital.

“We were going to put a hydroponic farm there but, with the rand-dollar see-saw, we could not afford it. And so we moved the market there. When we started, it was just bush, but then civilisation caught up and we needed more space.”

The Standeavens then moved to the current site on the new Shongweni Shuffle route. “We keep it looking like a market but everyone has access. It’s 100% paraplegic friendly. All verandahs are 3m wide so, come rain or shine, the public can be under cover and stallholders don’t have damaged stock. And you can still bring your dogs.

“Our vision was a market that everyone could enjoy and all stall-holders benefit from. We make sure the toilets are clean, that there are dustbins, that tables are cleared. We want people to enjoy the day out, not push the litter aside.”

For the Standeavens, what has been most encouraging is the people who come back. “We have people who used to come here as teenagers with their families, who are now bringing their babies to the market years later.”

Also, a successful market looks after its stallholders. “We’ve taken people under our wing. We help people with displays and how to promote the stuff better. We teach people how to sell their products.

“The strength of some of the stallholders amazes me. They get up and create a living for themselves and off they go to market.

“When we started the market, Keith, my husband, was being transferred to Swaziland.

“We had a baby on the way. And he didn’t want to go. They retrenched him and so we created our own path.

“I absolutely love it. I still get nervous on Friday night. We have an early night and dinner at home. And I still get butterflies on the way to market in the morning and I can walk 12km on a Saturday morning at the market, checking what’s happening, but I love what I do,” says Christine.