Farmer’s market gets support

Lengthening days and warmer weather brings a renewed interest in local area farmers’ markets.

These vibrant markets are friendly places that promote health and a sense of community by bringing together local producers, consumers and the agriculture community.

As Colleen Simmons of Burns Lake notes, farmers’ markets provide a “common ground for people to gather, share and celebrate the bounty and uniqueness of the North and its culture.”

Lengthening days and warmer weather brings a renewed interest in local area farmers’ markets.

These vibrant markets are friendly places that promote health and a sense of community by bringing together local producers, consumers and the agriculture community.

As Colleen Simmons of Burns Lake notes, farmers’ markets provide a “common ground for people to gather, share and celebrate the bounty and uniqueness of the North and its culture.”

In addition to being an important meeting place, each market plays an important economic role within the larger community.

Brent Warner (the former executive director of Farmers’ Markets Canada) uses a multiplier of $1.62 contributed to the local economy for every $1.00 spent at a farmers’ market through sales and purchases at adjoining businesses.

It is worth noting that money spent in local markets goes directly back into the local economy as vendors in turn acquire supplies and make purchases to support their families within the community.

The Fort St. James market has a program that supports low income families, pregnant women and seniors with $15 a week in coupons to spend at the farmers’ market.

In 2010, participation in the coupon program contributed approximately $5,000 to local market vendors in coupon sales above their other market sales. The Fort St. James Farmers’ Market Society has shared its experience with other market organizers throughout the province and the program may be available in other communities throughout our region this season.

Programs such as this increase the positive economic impact of the market in the community and meet the needs of many residents.

With the support of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) the markets of the area (including Smithers, Houston, Burns Lake, Southside, Fort Fraser, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof) have formed a regional group called “The Bulkley-Stuart-Nechako Farmers’ Markets”.

Kandace Kerr of Fort St. James explains that, “over the past few years the RDBN has strengthened regional farmers’ markets by bringing us together to share experiences and resources, by offering training from the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets for market managers, board members, and vendors, by promoting our markets, and through initiatives such as the signage project.”

Kandace was recently elected to the board of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and noted that “during our annual conference in Steveston I sat in on a workshop on building partnerships. I was very proud to speak about the support that the RDBN gives to our regional markets, and was surprised to hear that many other farmers’ markets do not have the same level of support from their local or regional governments.

The support the RDBN provides to our markets and to local agriculture could easily be a model for other regional and local governments in the province.”

One project that the RDBN is currently assisting the Bulkley-Stuart-Nechako Farmers’ Markets with is signage.

Clear signage would allow both residents and tourists to find markets easily.

Highway signs at the entrances to a community would establish that the community has a market.

Banners at the market sites would help to identify the specific locations.

The Bulkley-Stuart-Nechako Farmers’ Market group invites all residents of the area to participate in a logo contest.

Logo submissions should be made to local markets by June 2. Each market will select a semi-finalist (who will receive a basket of market goods).

A final selection will be made and the designer of the winning logo will receive a $500 cash prize.

The logo will be displayed prominently on signs, banners and websites.

Watch your community for posters with submission details.

As you plan and prepare your family meals, plant your own gardens and prepare for the upcoming season remember to check your local market.

Please submit your logos and keep your eyes open for market locations and hours in your community.

We’ll meet you at the market!