B.C. Farmers’ Markets Connect Communities, Strengthen Economies

In cities and smaller centres across British Columbia, more than 147 farmers’ markets, which are represented by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM), are revving up local commerce and social interaction, supporting small-scale agriculture, and getting more nutritious food onto the plates of residents—all essential ingredients that make up a healthy community.

“Farmers’ markets typically represent an alternative economy, a place where diversified, small-scale farming can be viable,” says Heather O’Hara, executive director of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. “Whether regionally or at the local level, you’ll get the freshest food, interesting prepared foods, and different kinds of in-season crops based on a particular area, so you’re really getting a flavour and a taste of what a region or community is all about, for instance, something on Vancouver Island versus the Kootenays.”

The great strength of farmers’ markets is the intentional aggregation of local food production, as well as incubating and supporting local businesses.

“There’s a lot of prepared foods that go on to be wildly successful businesses that started and incubated at the farmers’ market,” reveals O’Hara.

Holy Crap artisanal organic cereal is one such business that was founded by Brian and Corin Mullins from Sechelt, B.C. They sold their first 10 bags of cereal at the Sechelt Farmers’ Market in May 2009. Made in Gibsons, B.C., today Holy Crap has become a multi-million dollar company selling to more than 600 retailers.

The social and economic benefits that help to strengthen a community’s local identity cannot be overlooked. The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market (KFCM), for example, serves as a regional economic anchor and neighbourhood destination for residents to participate in collective action toward boosting social networking and enhancing civic engagement.

“KFCM’s long-established outdoor market, across from Orchard Park Mall, creates a vibrant central city hub,” says Bev Wiens, KFCM president. “Our new Sunday satellite market on St. Paul Street adds to the pedestrian atmosphere in the rapidly growing residential neighbourhood of the downtown area.”

The success of B.C.’s farmers’ markets helps foster and connect urban and rural economies, catalyze neighbourhood development, enhance real estate values and keep money in the local neighbourhood.

“Money spent in the community stays in the community as vendors purchase goods and services, hire local staff and contribute to the tax base, in addition to supporting social programs,” says Wiens. “Providing access to fresh local food and unique crafts adds to the attractiveness of the community as a desirable place to live.”

Most farmers’ markets operate not just in the summer months, but well into October, too.

Be sure to visit the BC Farmers’ Market Trail (bcfarmersmarkettrail.com) launched by BCAFM to help you find your local farmers’ market. “It is heavy on digital engagement, with videos to tell the story of community markets and the farmers within it,” says O’Hara.

Jong’s Vegetable Garden. Photo Sherri King/Kamloops Farmers’ Market

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

B.C. farmers’ markets are open well into fall—and some remain open year round

Here are a few to explore:

CARIBOO CHILCOTIN COAST

Quesnel Farmers’ Market (Oct. 14)

KOOTENAY ROCKIES

Cranbrook Farmer’s Market (Oct. 7)

Creston Valley Farmers’ Market (Oct. 14)

Grand Forks Farmers’ Market (Oct. 31)

Nakusp Farmers’ Market (Oct. 7)

Nelson: Cottonwood Community Market (Oct. 31)

Revelstoke Farm & Craft Market (Oct. 21)

Rossland Mountain Market (Oct. 5)

Trail’s IncrEDIBLE Farmer’s Market (Oct. 7)

NORTHERN B.C.

Dawson Creek Farmers’ Market (year round)

Haida Gwaii: Queen Charlotte Farmers’ Market (year round)

Hazelton Farmers’ Market (Oct. 1)

Prince George Farmers’ Market (year-round)

Smithers: BV Farmers’ Market (Oct. 7)

Terrace: Skeena Valley Farmers’ Market (Oct. 28)

SEA TO SKY

Lillooet Farmers’ Market (Oct. 6)

Pemberton Farmers’ Market (Oct.26)

Squamish Farmers’ Market (Oct. 28)

Whistler Farmers’ Market (Oct. 8)

SUNSHINE COAST

Gibsons Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market (Oct. 6)

Roberts Creek Farm Gate Market (year-round)

THOMPSON OKANAGAN

Armstrong Farmers’ Market (Oct. 28)

Barriere Farmers’ Market (Oct. 26)

Clearwater Farmers’ Market (Oct. 7)

Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market (Oct. 28)

Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market (Oct. 28)

Lytton Two Rivers Farmers’ Market (Oct. 27)

Merritt: Nicola Valley Farmers’ Market (Oct. 7)

Penticton Farmers’ Market (Oct. 28)

Salmon Arm All Organic Framers’ Market (Nov. 8)

Salmon Arm/Shuswap Farm & Craft Market (Oct. 5)

Sorrento Village Farmers’ Market (Oct.7)

Vernon Farmers’ Market (Oct. 30)

VANCOUVER ISLAND/GULF ISLANDS

Courtenay: Comox Valley Farmers’ Market (Oct. 14)

Duncan Farmers’ Market (year-round)

Nanaimo: Island Roots Market Co-op (yearround)

North Saanich Farm Market (Oct. 6)

Pender Island Farmers’ Market (Oct. 7)

Port Alberni Farmers’ Market (year-round)

Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market (year-round)

Salt Spring Farmers’ Market (Oct. 31)

Sooke Country Market (Oct. 7)

Victoria: Metchosin Farmers’ Market(Oct 29)

Victoria: Moss Street Market (Oct. 28).