Unable to meet Qualicum Beach town council restrictions, Wednesday night farmers market will use school district land

The first Wednesday night market is scheduled for July 8 at Qualicum Commons (the former elementary school)

After some complications, the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market is adding a Wednesday evening market after all, starting July 8.

The market will open on School District property after the town’s requirements wouldn’t work for the market operators. “This was our second choice, but we’re super happy with it, our customers have been asking for it for a long time,” said market manager Mimi Shewchuck.

In May, organizers applied to town council to expand from their usual Saturday morning main market on Veterans Way, to add the Wednesday evening markets as a mid-week “top up.”

The downtown business association (QBDBA), which runs an uptown Thursday evening street market that includes some farmers market vendors, said the new market would hurt theirs and all the work they’ve done to build it over the years.

Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer had said at a council meeting, “I’ve had a number of discussions with merchants downtown and they are almost unanimously against a market on Wednesday nights.”

“Businesses are what make our downtown special,” he said, pointing out the town funds the QBDBA “and now we’re going to do something contrary to their wishes.”

“I find that awkward at best. Disrespectful of people who pay taxes and business licences in town.”

“There are a limited number of vendors, in a sense we’re competing for them,” QBDBA board member in charge of markets Dave Wood previously told

The NEWS. “Having a market on another night could draw away much of our success.”

Citing the importance of local food to the health and economy of the region, councillors Barry Avis and Neil Horner proposed a compromise to allow the Wednesday market with several restrictions including only allowing vendors selling “locally grown product that is fresh,” which council passed.

“That was just not feasible,” said Shewchuck. “It would only allow four or five of our vendors, which as a non-profit we can’t exclude most of our members.” Shewchuck said they have 90 vendors on Saturdays and will have 30 at the new Wednesday evening market.

And so organizers struck a deal with School District 69 to host the new market on the grounds of Qualicum Commons, the former elementary school site in the middle of town, for which they don’t require town permission.

“Optimally we’d like to be where we normally are, which everybody tried really hard for,” Shewchuck said. “We had meetings with the town and QBDBA.”

QBDBA president Lilo Kallai said they just found out about the new market through The NEWS and would take some time to sort out the details and have a response.

Like the Saturday market, the new market will still focus on farm and food, “make it, bake it, grow it,” Shewchuck said, they just won’t be as restricted as council required. They will continue to give priority to local vendors, Qualicum Beach first, then the Oceanside region and almost strictly vendors from between Courtenay and Cedar, she said, with some from places like Nanaimo being grandfathered in after 10 years as regulars.

“We really like this location, right downtown and close to the residential neighbourhood where people can just walk over,” she said.

“We’ll have produce, meat, baking, spices, anything you can eat, and maybe some crafters if there are still spaces.”

The Wednesday markets will run

4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. from July 8 to Sept. 26. Visit www.qbfarmersmarket.com for more information.

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