Kelowna farmers' market vendors part ways

As of next summer, Kelowna will have a new farmers’ and artisans’ market.

A rift between Kelowna Farmers and Crafters market vendors caused by a disagreement about the future location of the organization has been formalized into an official split, with some growers branching out into a new co-operative.

Mark Pigott, a spokesperson for the endeavour tentatively expected to open at the Urban Square market next year, said it’s only a matter of weeks until the paperwork is completed and the new  co-operative is made official.

“It will be a new name and a new concept and it will be a much broader farmers’ market concept than what’s currently in Kelowna,” said Pigott.

The main aim of the co-operative, he said, is to increase the profile and significance of small scale growers in the region.

“Right now the existing farmers market, which has been around for a long time and is well received, is somewhere vendors go two days a week and display their produce, people buy it and leave,” he said.

“So the relationship between the vendors and the community is really just transactional.  In our judgement it doesn’t extend far enough into the realm of what we believe the farmers’ market represents.”

Local growers, he said, are a draw for tourism, a boon to the economy and critical for food supply and security.

To ensure that they have a place moving forward, the new co-operative will work to deepen ties to the community they’ve already become a part of, such as the Okanagan Chef Association, those who put on wine and food pairings, as well as Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan.

Another significant component of their mandate will be educating those who have yet to realize the bounty around them.

“The actual supply of local food as a component of what people consume is infinitesimal and if we don’t take steps to get the community engaged in understanding the role of producers, we could be in trouble,” Pigott said, adding that only two cents on every grocery dollar spent in the Okanagan goes to local producers.

Considering US growers are struggling with keeping up the levels of food they produce as their climate realities change, a new stream of awareness could be increasingly important.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see, they’re headed for a huge crisis, so if we stimulate more support and more education, people will have an enhanced appreciation of how important and critical local farming is to our overall sustainability.”

Pigott couldn’t say how many of the current farmers’ market vendors would be leaving the long-standing organization, but indicated there are a fair number. That said, he doesn’t believe the new co-op will harm the current market.

“If we can stimulate more community engagement, the capacity to want two farmers’ markets will exist. This isn’t about competition, it’s about getting more people engaged.”


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