The South Cariboo Farmers’ Market. Submitted photos.

Farmers’ market needs more food vendors

‘We really don’t want to lose membership’

The South Cariboo Farmers Market (SCFM) is in need of more food vendors. In order to maintain their membership with the BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM), they need at least 51 per cent of their vendors to be food vendors on any given day or they could lose their membership, along with the coupon program that supports low-income families in having fresh produce, meat and eggs from the market.

If they can’t find more food producers, they might have to talk to crafter vendors about reducing their numbers to maintain their membership and the coupon program, says Robin Hunt, president of the South Cariboo Farmer’s Market and the owner/operator of Big Rock Ranch.

“We really don’t want to lose membership with the BCAFM because it does A) support everyone in the coupon program and [B)] it also has a lot of support for our farmer’s market and other community members,” she says. “So, we’re really trying to put the word out that we’re searching for people that maybe have a backyard garden or are growing food, they’re a meat producer or they might bake pies or something like that might be interested in joining a market.”

Through the coupon program, recipients receive a set amount of coupons each week for 16 weeks to purchase fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and herbs at B.C. farmers’ markets. The program is restricted to pregnant families, low-income families, single-parent families and seniors, says Debbra Williams, administrative supervisor for the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre, who are working with the SCFM.

Last year they filled 28 spots and they always have a waitlist, says Williams.

“It’s a really, really good program. Last year they increased the amount of money so that over the four-month period of time each family got $360 worth of coupons towards their food budget.”

That money makes a huge difference to the families, says Williams, who gave some examples of the responses they’ve had over the years.

“I had a mother who came in to pick up her coupons and she was absolutely in tears because she had no food to give her little person that was in the daycare and it was farmers’ market day so she had gone to get fruit from the farmers’ market to take to her little guy in the daycare … each week if they’re getting $21 a week in coupons that’s a huge amount of money towards their food budget and it’s fresh.”

Williams is told every week when the families come in how much of a difference it makes, she says.

For seniors, it’s not just about the food but is also a social outing, she adds.

The vendors will really get to know the coupon clientele and add a bit extra or let the little kids have a free apple, pear or carrot, she says.

“I think the vendors that we have are amazing.”

Hunt says she understands that it can be tough for farmers to attend with everything else they have to do but notes that a co-operative is one way to deal with that.

They’re also looking at doing more special event days, such as having it on a Saturday once a month and are looking at bringing in more music acts. Their regular musician has moved away and they’re thinking of bringing some people in on a rotating basis through Momentum Productions but they’re also putting a call out to local musicians who might be interested.

“We’re also on the lookout for anyone interested in doing presentations at the market, for example, jam making, beekeeping, composting, kids activities, etc. We’re really hoping to grow the market this year and create an event, a place to be on Fridays.”

Typically on a Friday, they’ll have 23 to 30 vendors, says Hunt. Currently, they have around 30 vendors applied, whereas usually, they’ll have about 60 get their membership in by May 3.

People can donate to the coupon program as well in order to support a family in the community.

For more information, on the SCFM visit southcariboofarmersmarket.org or email info@southcariboofarmersmarket.org.

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