If you look around the busy street of 158-160 Norodom Boulevard on the first Sunday of the month, more often than not, you’ll see a cluster of people around the tall gates of Odom Garden for the monthly Farmers’ Market.
The market, which has drawn in families, vendors, pet-lovers, and food-aficionados alike, is the brainchild of the dynamic duo, Jennifer and Pesei. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Jennifer worked with Phnom Penh local Pesei at an NGO for a few years, before discovering that they were efficient in working together. “We have a lot of experience in coordinating programmes and management,” Jennifer explained. “Especially in the realm of hospitality and tourism.”
Both in their 30s, the women began organizing the Odom Farmers’ Market as a simple concept to hopefully provide an opportunity within the community for locals and expats to sell organic produce. Since then, the market has expanded into a bazaar of artisans, pop up shops, and a venue for smaller businesses to market their products in a beautiful location.
“Odom Garden was being officially opened at the time (September 2020) and hosted the market as a venue with the hopes to entice more visitors to this newly created (though temporary) community outdoor space provided by Urban Living Solutions (ULS),” Jennifer recalled. “When we first started our market had 12 vendors and initially we found it quite difficult to attract organic produce vendors to the space as it was relatively unknown.”
They then extended their invitation to other independent businesses to join the first event — similar to what Jennifer had seen in the Australian farmers’ market, which offered a few various services and products from local small businesses. Odom Garden served as the perfect spot for their idea to grow. Located in the middle of the city, it had 4,000sqm which includes tall trees, a family-friendly playground, a dog-friendly area, and a cafe.
“OFM became a passion project and we love coordinating it and being part of this community,” Jennifer smiled. “Odom Garden is an incredible space — it offers a great day out with food options onsite. Combine that with a vibrant community market atmosphere and you can understand why OFM has become such a highly anticipated monthly event in Phnom Penh.”
Waking from Hibernation
In 2020, they were able to run four successful markets before the pandemic restricted their activities until November. They implemented safety regulations by asking vendors and visitors to wear masks, undergo temperature checks while attempting to check for QR registration and vaccine cards as much as possible.
Small businesses struggled to keep their venues and maintain their sales during travel restrictions and health scares, but the Odom Farmers’ Market (OFM) became an event to regain the loss of sales. Due to the affordable table rent, outside area, and high traffic, many small businesses flooded the registration for the market. Each event became different, with the vendor list is constantly changing to include new brands and crowd favorites, seeking to appeal to everyone.
“For both of us, it’s important that OFM doesn’t limit access for brands based on what a vendor sells,” Jennifer stated. “If you have a small business, a side-hustle (something many people have these days thanks to COVID), a service business or NGO and want to get the message out to the community about your product or business – OFM is the place to do that.“
Both ladies enjoy seeing the hamlet of vendors bloom into a one-stop-shop of convenience for visitors to savour and explore what their local community has to offer. Jennifer noted that the market had become something to look forward to each month. The market draws visitors looking to make time to catch up with friends make plans to eat, shop local brands, and escape the concrete walls of the city for a while.
Both Jennifer and Pisei expect the concept of the market to spread to other areas of the city as life returns to normal and new travellers arrive. “We hope that we can continue OFM for some time yet,” Jennifer said wistfully. “Odom Garden is a temporary community space, the hope is we would be able to move the market to another location in future however who knows what will happen!”
Written by Sotheavy Nou