After a holiday break, the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market was back last weekend to continue their second winter season.
Market manager Mimi Shewchuk said the winter market is still an intimate affair compared to the three-to-four thousand people they get every Saturday morning through the summer, but the roughly 30 vendors these days bring in a core group of local shoppers.
“It’s all about the customers and they’ve been amazing. Our customers are so loyal it’s really fantastic,” she said of the success of the winter market.
“That core base is so important. The whole idea of the farmers market is to create sustainable food in our area, so it’s a long process, but we’re moving forward,” she said.
She was excited to report that they now have four local farmers attending weekly due to their substantial investment in infrastructure like greenhouses, which allow them to grow all year.
“They planned and built greenhouses last year so they’d know they’d have produce for he winter. If you give them an outlet and they know they can sell their products, they’ll grow it,” she said, adding that one local organic farmer who built greenhouses for the first winter season last year is already building more for next year.
The market is focused on local food, she said, with farmers and local food producers like bakers getting priority and others like crafters as added value.
Through the winter, most of the market is in the warm comfort of the community hall, with a few vendors outside on the familiar corner of Veterans Way and Memorial Avenue attracting attention.
With Shewchuk as the only paid employee through the winter she hasn’t had time to track numbers to the same degree as in the summer, but guesses they get 500 to 1,000 people every Saturday morning in the winter. She said she expects that cycle to continue to grow as more customers come for more fresh local produce, encouraging more farmers to grow.
She said the cancellation of the Qualicum Beach Downtown Business Association’s Thursday Uptown Summer Market mid-season last summer hasn’t had any direct impact on them, but it may lead to an expansion of the farmers market’s new, mid-week evening market they plan to host for a second season this summer.
Last year they were restricted to food only for their mid-week market, which she said they hope to change and be able to include some of the previous Thursday market vendors.
Visit the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market every Saturday at Veterans Way and Memorial Avenue 8:30 a.m. to noon. For more information, including vendor applications, visit www.qbfarmersmarket.com or call 1-844-843-7236.