Opinion

Spring in the Kootenays marks the start to outdoor market season

   - File photo
— image credit: File photo

By Miche Warwick

Outdoor farmers’ market season is kicking off around the Kootenays, which means it is time to refocus on local shopping.

Before long, farmers, food producers, artisans, musicians, and community folk will flock to town centers each week, bringing and seeking out their fresh and delicious dose of good food produced right here in the Kootenays.

Farmers’ markets drive the development of local food systems; educate consumers about the diversity of seasonal, locally produced foods; and create a niche for local, value-added businesses.

Farmers’ markets in British Columbia are members of an umbrella organization called the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM). With more than 135 member markets across B.C. 17 of which are located here in the Kootenays the farmers’ market sector has seen rapid growth over the past decade, both in number of markets and demand for locally produced, fresh and nutritious food.

In 2012 the BCAFM, in collaboration with Dr. David Connell, completed an economic and social benefits study in which financial assessments were conducted at 33 markets across the province. Results demonstrated that farmers’ markets in BC deliver $170+ million in economic benefits to our local communities every year, with an increase in spending of 147 per cent since 2006 when a similar study was done.

Farmers’ markets are the most accessible way for our communities to connect with our local food system and the growers and producers who provide us with nutritious food products. The more we support this unique, vibrant local shopping opportunity, the more we are investing in a food secure future for the Kootenay region.

As a significant contributor to our provincial economy each year, the revenue generated from B.C. farmers’ markets benefits not only vendors, but also surrounding local businesses who supply these vendors. Local businesses located nearby to farmers’ markets also experience an economic spill-over effect, as they gain customers who are out and about shopping at the market.

Farmers’ markets are a retail opportunity that allows farmers to take home 100 per cent of their profits, which means that your dollars are staying and working in your community. When you purchase direct from your favourite farmer at the market, you are helping ensure we keep our farmers farming and are helping support the protection of B.C.’s agricultural land for future generations.

Typically, food available at a Kootenay farmers’ market has travelled less than 200 km. In comparison, the average North American meal travels 2,400 km to your plate. Shopping at the market is a profoundly beneficial choice, both for your health, and the health of the environment.

In the Kootenay region alone, we are lucky to have more than 85 farmers growing food at a commercial scale, many of whom utilize our area farmers’ markets as their primary outlet for connecting with our communities.

So mark your calendars, and get prepared to start your weekly shop at your favourite farmers’ market.

Rossland kicks off on Thursday June 1 from 3 6 p.m.; Grand Forks is running every Tuesday and Friday from 8 a.m. 1 p.m.; Trail farmers’ market operates bi-weekly on Saturdays from 10 a.m. 2 p.m. beginning May 20; and Nelson Baker Street market begins on Wednesday June 14 from 9:30 AM 3 p.m.

For a full Kootenay farmers’ market directory, visit kootenayfood.com/farmers-markets.

Miche has been writing engaging food and farming content, focused on the Kootenay region, for the past five years. She is the Editor of the Eat Kootenay Local seasonal farming newsletter, and has articles published in agricultural magazines across North America regularly.

 

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