A local farmer and food promoter has been named BC’s Farmers’ Market Manager of the Year.
Miche Warwick received the award at the annual meeting of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets this month in Kimberley.
Warwick was chosen for her work with Rossland’s Mountain Market.
“Miche’s dedication to creating an awesome market experience for our community is second to none,” said her nominator for the award. “She always goes above and beyond in all aspects of running the market — volunteering, stepping up to help when nobody else will, helping vendors, welcoming the community, promoting the market, connecting people in Rossland to local food.
“Miche puts vendors first, always, and is always willing to help them succeed at this market.”
Warwick, who has been involved in the market since its inception six years ago, said she was surprised by the award.
A passionate local food producer herself (she and her partner run Happy Hills Farm in Rossland), she says it takes dedication to keep a farmers’ market going.
“There’s a lot that goes into managing a market — behind-the-scenes work that I am not sure most people would realize is there,” she says. “You are in constant contact with people, the city, drawing up contracts, buying insurance, reaching out to the community, dealing with vendors, musicians or entertainers, attracting sponsors and contacting news outlets.
“It all comes back to the manager to bring all these pieces together and make it happen.”
Warwick’s dedication has paid off, with more than 20 vendors regularly attending the summer market, and just about as many in the winter. She also helped spearhead the project to have monthly farmers’ markets in the winter at the Rossland Miners’ Hall.
“Our team said, ‘You know what? Let’s try a winter market once a month. It’s been amazing what we found: that by providing an outlet for farmers who create value-added products, by providing that outlet in the winter as well, you give them a chance to sell and connect to community year-round.”
The winter market’s actually changed the way local producers work, she says.
“So now they are growing for the winter, planting winter crops and planning more production in the winter, because now they have somewhere to sell it.”
Warwick credits the community of Rossland itself for the market’s success.
“Rossland is a really great community, a really supportive community in all kinds of different ways,” she says.
“We’re lucky in that we have a following for our market. We have a number of locals who are market die-hards who come no matter what. It can be a torrential downpour and they’ll be there to get what they need — their staples, their regular stock-up of stuff.”
She’s also proud how the market’s reached out to develop connections with people in need, including a program to help people on social assistance access local produce.
But like anyone passionate on a subject, she sees room for improvement.
“I have to be honest, there’s also a chunk of our population we are missing. We are not quite connecting with for whatever reason,” she says. “So there’s some room for us to improve there, and reach out into the community a little further.”
Ultimately, she says, her award is the result of hard work by many dedicated people, including the provincial farmers’ market organization.
“We have this epic team of people, their big focus is food and access to local food, bringing awareness to the amazing number of producers we have,” she says.
“And I have to thank my friends and family, and this community that is so supportive. Without a supportive community and my awesome partner I have, it would have been really hard to do a lot of this.”
Warwick wasn’t the only local winner. Trails’ IncrEDIBLE Farmer’s Market was honoured as best small (under 20 vendors) market in the province for 2019.