A renewed interest in weekend morning farmers’ markets could be because of a desire to get back to the “good old days,” says Jeannie Shaver.
Shaver, market manager for the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market, spoke at the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce’s meeting on Wednesday (April 19). She talked about the economic impacts of local farmers’ markets in town which, she said, have experienced phenomenal growth as of late.
“I attribute much of this growth to a renewed desire to get back to the good old days, when people met every Saturday morning to share their wares and reconnect with their neighbours,” said Shaver. “There certainly is a longing for customers to connect with their food producers and their community.”
Shaver said from 2006 to 2012, there was a 62 per cent increase of markets.
The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market, Shaver said, sees approximately 2,500 customers each Saturday and is home to about 100 vendors.
According to the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM), Shaver said, the estimated total economic benefit of all farmers’ markets in B.C. as of 2012 was greater than $170 million. That was a 147-per cent increase from a similar study in 2006, she said.
This data for the Economic and Social Benefits study was collected in the outdoor market season (June to September) in 2012 from 33 markets across the province. More than 9,800 people participated in the study.
Shaver said the BCAFM interviewed 101 shops that were open during the market days and most business owners spoke positively on the farmers’ markets.
“One benefit many businesses said was the market helped to draw people into the town and consequently into their business,” she said, adding that some businesses hired more staff, opened earlier and closed later.
The one negative assessment, Shaver said, was reduced parking for customers.
Shaver said farmers’ markets can act as an incubator for small businesses.
“It gives lots of individuals a chance to test out their passion and conduct farmers’ market surveys and see if their product is going to be a hit,” she said. “Many vendors go on to open up shops locally and some of them are distributing their products across the Island and across B.C.”
At the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market, Shaver said, all vendors are Vancouver Island Health Authority certified and undergo testing to ensure they adhere to the rules.
She also said while vendors don’t need to be farmers, they must “make it, bake it or grow it.”