A hotbed for markets

Residents of Parksville Qualicum Beach and tourists have many options when it comes to farmers' markets

The popular Craig Street market — the photo above is from last year — opens June 11 in Parksville.

The popular Craig Street market — the photo above is from last year — opens June 11 in Parksville.

Market season is upon us in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Residents and tourists alike have options if they like the sights, sounds and smells of open-air shopping. Local grocery stores have all those things too — including produce, meats and seafood grown or raised or caught nearby — but for some there’s nothing like a stroll outdoors and the chance to talk to the people who hours earlier pulled that carrot or potato out of the earth.

The wildly successful Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market doesn’t restrict itself to certain times of the year. It runs on Veterans’ Way from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday from March through December but it looks like that’s going to expand even further.

“We’re able to have enough food vendors to go year-round, so we’re actually talking about going year-round,” said market manager Mimi Shewchuk. “We’re doing really well.”

The market currently has 58 vendors and Shewchuk said that will likely expand to about 70 in August. She said the market’s non-profit society has set the guideline that 70 per cent of all vendors be related to farms and food.

She also said the vast majority of vendors – more than 90 per cent – are  from the mid-Island. Shewchuk  said the timing of the event helps the community and the farmers.

“We wrap it up at noon so they (tourists and locals) spend the rest of the day in the area, which is awesome,” said Shewchuk. “And the farmers can get back to their fields – it’s hard to get them off their fields.”

Starting June 11, Parksville residents will see the return of their downtown market on Craig Street. This year, there will be 160 sites for vendors (there were 120 last year) and organizers expect more farmers to take advantage of the market, which hasn’t had a produce focus in the past.

“Last year we sold out all of our sites but we won’t have to turn people away this year,” said parksville and District Chamber of Commerce street market coordinator Linda Schneider.

The Craig Street Market is open Tuesday nights from 6-9 p.m. in June and July, and 6-8:30 p.m. in August.

As if the fresh, local farm items weren’t enough, farmers’ markets are often a place for area musicians to get some exposure and provide entertainment for the crowd. And the markets always have some special event or another worked into the schedule, too.

The Errington Market is in its 40th year and is open every Saturday in the summer from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Errington’s Community Park. August 17 brings one of those special events for this market, Hi Neighbour Day, presented by the Errington War Memorial Hall Society.

Perhaps the most famous of markets in Parksville Qualicum Beach, the Old Country Market in Coombs (yes, goats on the roof) is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is a can’t-miss for tourists and locals alike. It has more of an international flavour food-wise and is surrounded by many unique shops, eateries and a produce market.