A new home for Kelowna farmers market vendors?

Business is booming at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters market.

But somewhere between the hustling crowds, locally grown produce and handmade goods, internal controversy and public confusion over the market's future grew.

They're questions  the newest market president is trying to put to rest.

Martin Miller took the helm of the market early in the summer-season. He replaced Rachelle Zelaney, a board member who had been thrust into the position mere weeks earlier when the previous president stepped down amid controversy over a potential new home in the north end of the city.

As that issue continued to play out, Miller became the market's new voice— a firmly anti "industrial area" voice.

"We are not moving to that spot (on Clement Ave.)" said Miller, speaking on behalf of  all vendors.

"The old board stepped down and we have a new board, and we have decided we will stay (in this area), for sure."

From his 45 years of experience in the farmers market loop, Martin has come to  believe that moving far away from where people recognize the market to be would be be detrimental to overall success.

"We know it wouldn't work. They have done this in Winnipeg and Wenatchee, Washington, and they have huge problems," he said.

The parking lot across from the mall, however, isn't going to be a forever-home for vendors, as the market society can only secure a year-to-year lease with Orchard Park.

"The major thing is that we get a new site, a prominent location. That's one of the hardest parts," said Martin.

In the next couple of weeks, Miller said that there may be an answer to questions about where the market will eventually wind up, but the cat may have been let out of the bag  in Kelowna city council chambers on Monday.

A zoning amendment that would allow for a new public market at the southeast corner of Springfield and Benvoulin roads was given the go-ahead by city councillors during their regular meeting.

As outlined in municipal documents, the Mission Crossing project would offer a year round home for local agricultural related enterprises.

The 97,000-square foot market would consist  of several large buildings that look like barns, farmhouses, and stables, set in a walkable space.

The plans for the "Granville Island style market" aren't new. The Mission Crossing project first came to the fore three years ago, but were bogged down by requirements set forth by the Agricultural Land Commission.

The developer asked the ALC for changes to those requirements in April, and got the go-ahead, allowing for forward momentum  with this incarnation of the project.

The question that lingers is whether the farmers market vendors will move to the space. They could vote against it, just as they voted against taking the Clement Avenue space, much to the surprise of the board at that time.

Or, as Coun. Robert Hobson pointed out, whether split interests among vendors could create trouble for both market-style ventures on opposite ends of the city.

"I've been noting with interest the issues facing Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market," he said.

"I love the one downtown, I have to admit, but this is that area where a lot of people want to be.  I wish them every success, but I'm a little unhappy to see the break up in the organization of farmers and crafters. If they don't pull together, none of these groups may succeed."

For his part, Mayor Walter Gray said that Kelowna is ready for more projects of that nature, noting that with city infrastructure weaved into the picture, one could eventually use the local bike paths to cycle to get their groceries.

"It's kind of European," he said.


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